LITTLE ROCK — An man imprisoned since age 22 on capital murder and kidnapping convictions would be able to spend his 61st birthday in freedom if Gov. Mike Beebe granted the state Parole Board’s request to commute his sentence.
Lewis Charles Wallace is serving life without parole plus 15 years in the 1977 abduction and killing of a Little Rock teenager. This week, the parole board has recommended to the governor that Wallace’s sentence be commuted to 40 years, which would make the 57-year-old eligible for parole in 2017.
The parole board cited flaws at Wallace’s 1979 trial in Pulaski County as well as his community service in prison. It noted Wallace and eight others published a book on "how to keep your child out of prison" and said he was nominated for a community service award by Little Rock television station KARK in 2000 for his work with children.
Lewis Wallace and three teens were convicted of kidnapping and murdering 17-year-old Calvin Earl Smith on Sept. 4, 1977. Police said Smith was beaten and either was pushed into the Arkansas River or jumped to escape his captors.
In his narrative of the incident, Lewis Wallace said he was with three other people he did not know well who were attempting to find stolen property. He said one of them, Henry Jewel Harris, pushed Smith, who he said stumbled off balance, fell into the river and drowned. He said the others, all longtime friends of Harris, told authorities Lewis Wallace pushed Smith.
Lewis Wallace, Harris, Twyanna Faye Martin and Marlon Glenn Hollman all were convicted of capital murder and kidnapping and sentenced to life without parole plus 15 or 20 years. All are still in prison.
In his application for commutation, Lewis Wallace cited unspecified injustices at his trial and claimed his sentence was excessive. He also said his institutional adjustment has been exemplary, that the ends of justice have been achieved "and I would like to have another chance to be free from the one mistake I made 36 years ago."
Both the Pulaski County sheriff and prosecutor have objected to a commutation for Lewis Wallace.
Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said Friday the governor likely would not get the parole board’s recommendation for weeks and that a decision on the request likely would not come before early next year.
"The governor considers every application individually. He has always been more willing to grant pardons for people who have completed all the terms of their sentence. He has only done a handful of commutations, and to this point has never done one for any type of homicide crime."