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Updated Mar 28, 2014 - 3:05 pm

Gov. Jan Brewer's grant of clemency frees killer after 49 years behind bars

PHOENIX -- A man convicted of killing his mother and stepfather nearly 50 years ago is now free after being granted clemency by Gov. Jan Brewer.

Brewer's approval of a sentence reduction for 65-year-old Patrick Maloney set the stage for his March 20 release from prison on parole, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

Maloney was four days short of his 16th birthday at the time of the 1964 killings at a Phoenix hotel.

After appeals and a retrial, he was sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole on a murder conviction in the death of his mother, Miriam Curson.

Maloney was originally also convicted of murder in the death of his stepfather, William Curson, but he ultimately pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in that killing and long ago finished a 10-year term on that conviction.

Brewer reduced his no-parole life sentence on the murder conviction to 45 years to life.

She had the state Board of Executive Clemency's Nov. 24, 2009, recommendation nearly four years before she approved it in on Oct. 9.

Her Oct. 9 proclamation granting sentence reduction doesn't explain her decision, and Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder on Friday would say only that the decision wasn't based on prison time served by Maloney.

However, Wilder noted that Brewer in 2012 granted a similar sentence reduce to Betty Smithey, who was sentenced to life without parole in 1963 for killing a child. Brewer reduced her sentence to 48 years to life and the clemency board granted her an absolute discharge.

Wilder said Brewer has granted 38 recommendations for commutation, many involving inmates nearing death, since she became governor in January 2009. She will leave office in January 2015.

Katie Puzauskas, director of the Arizona Justice Project, a nonprofit that helps prisoners who are deemed to have suffered a clear and unmistakable injustice, said a legal issue may have been a factor in Brewer's decision.

She cited Maloney's age at the time of the crime and a 2012 decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory life sentence for someone who committed a crime as a juvenile violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on ``cruel and unusual punishment.''

Maloney dropped an appeal based on that decision when he got word of Brewer's action.

``I always come back to the fact Patrick was 15 and he got a life sentence and I think maybe she thought, `Well, he's deserving of a parole eligibility date,' Puzauskas said.

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