SALEM -- Prosecutors are using a new state law lengthening the gap between parole hearings to keep convicted child killer Diane Downs from coming before the board again for a decade.
Downs, whose conviction for shooting her three children and killing one outside Springfield in 1984 inspired the Ann Rule book Small Sacrifices, is scheduled for a parole hearing Friday. The 55-year-old has been locked up more than 25 years for the shootings.
State law had required release hearings every two years for more than 1,500 prison inmates eligible for parole consideration, but a new law that took effect last January lengthened that time to up to 10 years on a case-by-case basis.
Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner singled her out in a recent letter to the parole board, saying that offenders such as Downs are precisely why the law was amended by the 2009 Legislature, the Statesman Journal reported.
Downs is well aware of the likelihood that she will never be paroled. As such, she has used the parole hearings process as a means of publicizing her latest revelations and conspiracy accusations, rather than as a means of seeking rehabilitation, he said.
At her first parole hearing in December 2008, Downs provided baffling testimony, portraying herself as the victim of conspirators out to get her and her family. The board ruled that she still posed a danger to society and must remain in prison.
Gardner is urging the board to refuse parole for Downs again and suspend any further parole consideration for a decade. As the board is well aware, Downs has made absolutely no progress over the past 26 years in her acknowledgment and understanding of the factors which motivated her to shoot her three young children, Gardner wrote in the letter.
To the contrary, she continues to fabricate new bizarre versions of the murder and attempted murders, he said.
In September, Downs stuck to her claim of innocence when interviewed for a dangerous offender report prepared by the Oregon Department of Corrections. The report said she will never stop looking for the man who committed the crime.
The parole law was changed after prosecutors, crime-victim advocates and family members of violent crime victims successfully lobbied legislators last year to limit parole hearings. They said, in part, that it was too painful for victims and relatives to attend parole hearings every two years.
The law approved by legislators has been sparingly used, according to parole board data obtained by the Statesman Journal. Since April, the board has denied parole for 49 of the 69 inmates who came up for release hearings. Of those 49 inmates, nine of them -- or 13 percent -- were told they must wait longer than two years for their next parole hearings.
The hearing Friday will take place in Salem, but Downs will testify via video from Chowchilla, Calif., where she is incarcerated at the Valley State Prison for Women.