After spending 58 years behind bars, Louisiana man Henry Montgomery was released from prison.
Montgomery’s Supreme Court case (Montgomery v. Louisiana) was critical in extending the possibility of freedom to hundreds of people sentenced to life in prison without the opportunity for parole when they were juveniles. But it took nearly six decades for the man for whom the case is named to get his own freedom.
“It feels so wonderful,” Montgomery, 75, said in an interview with the Associated Press. When asked what he plans to do now that he is free, Montgomery told AP he wanted to pay his respects to his mother and grandmother and other family members who died while he was in prison.
Montgomery was convicted of murdering East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Hurt in 1963 when he was just 17 years old. He was initially sentenced to death but was later re-sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Montgomery was skipping school when Hurt approached him in plain clothes. Montgomery admitted that as a Black teen in the segregated South, he was scared and shot the deputy.
"I’m really sorry that I, that this happened," Montgomery said at his hearing. "I am going to have to live with this all my life, the rest of my life."
After denying Montgomery’s parole twice in 2019, on Wednesday a three-member Louisiana parole board voted unanimously for his parole. Montgomery has served most of his adult life at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola.
“He’s been in prison for 57 years. He has an excellent ... disciplinary record. He is a low risk by our assessment. He’s got good comments from the warden,” board member Tony Marabella told AP.
Marabella voted to approve Montgomery’s release on certain conditions including a curfew and that he have no contact with the victim’s family.
"Today, Henry being home is a symbol of hope," Andrew Hundley, the first former juvenile lifer in Louisiana to have been released because of Montgomery’s Supreme Court case, told NBC News. "For individuals who go to prison when they are young people, Henry coming home is a message to them that their lives matter and that they can redeem themselves and that they are better than the worst mistake that they ever made."
Hundley co-founded the Louisiana Parole Project, a nonprofit group that helps former inmates reenter life outside prison.
”In addition to juvenile lifers, the Parole Project also serves “40-year lifers” who are now eligible for parole consideration due to changes in Louisiana law. We also help individuals who have been incarcerated for twenty years or longer, have aged out of criminal behavior, and can demonstrate a record of rehabilitation,” Louisiana Parole Project’s website reads.
Montgomery will now be part of the program.