RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) – Lemuel L. Newell has been serving a life sentence for rape since 1992, and his fiancée said she doesn’t understand why the state won’t grant his release under a program designed to do just that.
The North Carolina Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission, which considers releases for persons sentenced for crimes committed before Oct. 1, 1994, announced in October that Newell had been denied parole through its Mutual Agreement Parole Program.
Newell, now 58, was convicted on Oct. 29, 1992, in Forsyth County Superior Court on charges of first-degree rape dating back to July 13, 1991, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
But Charlotte Brown, who described herself as Newell’s fiancé, told WGHP that the reasons Newell was being denied parole were “generic” and didn’t really reflect his record.
Brown said she has been assisted by Anthony Lee Stiles and Corey Purdie, two former inmates who knew Newell and who are trying to assist inmates with their parole processes. Stiles and Purdie were on a conference call that Brown had in December with Willis J. Silas, who she said was the chair of the commission, and others as they appealed the denial of Newell’s parole.
She said a follow-up letter she received said that Newell was denied parole because “there was substantial risk that he could not conform to the reasonable conditions of parole.” She said that reasoning “doesn’t fit him,” that those reasons “don’t correspond” and they “don’t hold up.” She said Newell has done everything asked of him.
Leigh Kent, a case specialist for the parole commission, said that Newell had been fully evaluated and would be considered again in 2024, the earliest date that can happen.
The commission’s position
“Our records reflect that a MAPP Investigation was started on Mr. Newell on 7-8-22,” Kent wrote to WGHP in an emailed response to questions about Newell. “On 9-29-22, he was denied MAPP as well as parole. Mr. Newell was not scheduled to be reviewed for MAPP or parole again until 6-20-24.
“On occasion, the Parole Commission will reopen a case for review due to extenuating circumstances. The Commission reopened Newell’s case and … had a conference call with his family in December of 2022. The Commission reviewed his case for MAPP as well as parole and denied both at the end of December.
“Mr. Newell will be reviewed again for parole as well as MAPP on 6-20-24.”
Why deny parole?
Kent said the commission never explains publicly why a person was denied parole. “Mr. Newell was sent a letter advising him of the reason(s) for parole denial,” she said. “The reason(s) for an offender being denied parole are confidential.”
She provided four reasons that the commission may consider in refusing to release an offender:
- There is a substantial risk that he will not conform to reasonable conditions of parole.
- His release at that time would unduly depreciate the seriousness of his crime or promote disrespect for law.
- His continued correctional treatment, medical care or vocational or other training in the institution will substantially enhance his capacity to lead a law-abiding life if he is released at a later date.
- There is a substantial risk that he would engage in further criminal conduct.
But Brown, who said she had known Newell since she was about 12 years old – “Our parents were friends,” she said – doesn’t understand why Newell’s record doesn’t comply. “They said he should take more programs,” Brown said. “But he has completed ever program they have.
”Training … programs … classes … he did all he could. He passed a psych evaluation. He has minimal infractions.”
The MAPP program
MAPP is a “scholastic and vocational program” that is a 3-way agreement among the commission, the Division of Prisons and the offender that requires an inmate to display a desire to improve educational and training programs and a self-improvement process. There is a 3-year walk-up to release that, the MAPP website states, requires the inmate:
- To be in medium or minimum custody.
- Not to be subject to a detainer or pending court action that could result in further confinement.
- To be infraction-free for a period of 90 days before being recommended.
Newell, who most recently has been housed at the Carteret Correctional Center, has 11 infractions on his record, but none of them posted since 2014. There were a couple over a 16-year period that dealt with substance and weapons possessions, but most were for disobeying orders and violating basic rules.
His criminal record includes a suspended sentence in 1989 for the unauthorized use of a motor conveyance (a misdemeanor), and he served 38 months of an 8-year sentence after his conviction in 1984 – at age 20 – of second-degree rape and non-support (a misdemeanor).