June 25, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Schuette opposes release of inmate who won case

Makowski (Michigan Department of Corrections)

Lansing— Attorney General Bill Schuette said Wednesday he opposes parole for a convicted murderer whose life sentence was commuted and then reinstated in 2010 by ex-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that Granholm acted illegally when she revoked her order that would have made Matthew Makowski eligible for release from prison. The ruling means he could be paroled after serving 25 years for a 1988 stabbing death in Metro Detroit.

“(But) government’s first duty is to protect the people,” said Schuette, who is seeking re-election in November. “Michigan has always recognized the seriousness of felony murder, in which a criminal plans a violent crime knowing that the victim is likely to be seriously harmed or murdered.”

Schuette’s parole opposition is the newest development in a brewing battle over Makowski’s potential release from prison.

The 47-year-old inmate is asking for further help from the courts because state officials are interpreting the historic State Supreme Court ruling in a way that could block his parole or delay it for years.

The Michigan Department of Corrections and state Parole Board are treating the court ruling to mean Makowski now has a parolable life sentence. It means he has to go through the entire parole process again, which could take months and doesn’t guarantee he would gain freedom.

State Parole Board Chairperson Jayne Price is scheduled to interview Makowski July 17 and then recommend whether the case continues to a public parole board hearing. The sentencing judge in Makowski’s case also has to agree to the hearing, according to a Corrections Department spokesman.

Makowski, who managed a Dearborn health club, was convicted in Wayne County of first-degree murder in 1989 for arranging the robbery of an employee he had sent out for money. The victim, Pietro Puma, 19, was fatally stabbed when he resisted the robbery attempt.

In 2010, a state parole board made up of different members found Makowski was a trouble-free inmate and recommended Granholm commute his life-without-parole sentence.

Granholm signed an order with just days left in her term of office, then revoked it when Puma’s family complained they weren’t informed about the process.

The State Supreme Court, overruling Granholm’s revocation earlier this year, said governors are empowered to issue commutations but not revoke them.

On Wednesday, Schuette said the rights of Puma and his family outweigh those of the man whose actions led to his slaying.

“We must never forget that the victim’s family has rights, too,” he said, adding that Makowski “was the brains behind this deadly scheme, which took the life of a person in an attempted exchange for a few dollars.”

Attorneys representing Makowski, in a recent State Supreme Court filing, said Makowski’s case is being treated differently than dozens of past commutation cases. Commutation orders always have resulted in a prisoner’s release, they said.

gheinlein@detroitnews.com
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