Kentucky Gov. Bevin pardons convicted murderer who killed a man in crash

National News

KENTUCKY (CNN) – Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has pardoned a convicted murderer who killed a man in a high-speed crash.

A prosecutor is still arguing the driver should stay behind bars.

Pardon applications are sent directly to the governor’s office and the governor then considers those.

Governor Matt Bevin issuing several lately; One last week releasing Justin Wibbels from prison, commuting his sentence and granting him an unconditional pardon.

Governor Bevin writing in the order that the 2014 Laurel County crash was a quote “tragic accident.”

It is news that isn’t sitting well with the prosecutor.

“Used the term tragic accident – is absolutely not right. An accident or tragic accident is somebody that – an attentive driver who goes runs a stop sign, a driver on slippery road who loses control, that’s an accident.”

Wibbels was sentenced to 20 years in prison back in 2015, after a jury convicted him of wanton murder.

Laurel County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jackie Steele says the fact of the case were that Wibbels was driving at an excess of 80mph on a busy two-lane road, speeding past traffic in the emergency lane.

Steele says eventually, Wibbels hit a vehicle driven by 61-year-old Jerry Thompson.

“He knew exactly what the risks were when he was doing that, what the dangers were, and just ignored them and failed to abide by the rules of the road. That’s exactly what wanton murder is and what the jury convicted him of.”

Steele says this pardon is a slap in the face to many, including the family, the jurors, the judge, and the Kentucky Supreme Court, who reviewed the case and upheld the conviction.

Now Governor Bevin did break what was usual practice for governors in issuing all of their pardons at the very end of their term. Instead he has staggered those throughout his time in office.

At last check, Governor Bevin issuing a total of 70 during his four years. Nearly 30 of those happening this month.

That’s in comparison to former Gov. Steve Beshear, who issued 201 pardons on his final day in office and before that, Gov. Ernie Fletcher, issued just under 100.

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(This story was originally published on Nov. 27, 2019)

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