LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Editor’s Note: The attached video is from March 4, 2020.
On May 5, the parole board approved Governor Asa Hutchinson’s recommendation of parole eligibility for 72-year-old Willie Mae Harris.
Hutchinson announced in early March that he intended to commute the sentence of Willie Mae Harris, who was convicted for the murder of her husband in 1985.
The governor made the announcement in an email where he explained his intention to grant 14 pardons, two firearm restorations, and two commutations.
Harris, who is now 72 years old and blind, has been serving a life sentence at the Wrightsville Women’s Facility in Arkansas for 34 years.
A November 2019 report by The Appeal about Harris said the parole board recommended her release five times since 1988 and no governor agreed until Hutchinson’s decision in March 2020 .
“She been a victim of domestic violence for a long period of time [and] there was evidence of that,” Hutchinson said. “She proclaimed her innocence, but for a lot of reasons, I granted clemency to Willie Mae Harris.”
Harris said that she “had no intent to shoot” her husband, Clyde Harris, and that the gun “accidentally discharged,” according to an Arkansas State Supreme Court ruling on the case. She said in her appeals that her husband acted insane and every night “he would go through a transformation” and would threaten to kill her.
The shooting reportedly happened on January 30, 1985 after her husband accused her of giving him gonorrhea and tried to have anal sex with her. After she refused, she said her husband called “her names and slung her around.”
“She said she knelt over Clyde, who was lying down, hit him with the gun, and the gun fired,” the state Supreme Court opinion said.
The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled there was no error in the judgment and denied her appeal.
Hutchinson’s recommendation was to commute her sentence from life in prison to make her “immediately parole eligible.”