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Judge blocks path for release of inmate with terminal cancer

October 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Riverside Superior Court judge on Tuesday denied a request to downgrade two felony convictions for a blind inmate with terminal cancer, which would have paved the way for her release from state prison.

Patricia Diana Wright, who was convicted in 1998 of the murder of her estranged husband, wanted to be set free under California's compassionate release law. Wright wanted to have two felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors, which would enable her to be released on probation.

"She's not going to get out and hurt anybody," Wright's sister, Vanessa Wright, told Judge Becky Dugan. "She's in the hospital right now. She just wants to come home and die in peace with her five children and six grandkids."

Doctors said Wright, who is serving a life sentence, had six months to live.

Wright's family and supporters maintain she was wrongfully convicted in the murder 17 years after the killing occurred. There was no physical evidence linking her to the crime scene.

The family is petitioning Gov. Jerry Brown for clemency. While Wright would qualify, the governor's office is unable to sign off on it because she has three felony strikes against her.

Two of the felonies stem for the theft of two toys and a bath towel from a model home in 1989.

"It is brought out in court that her son did take the toys," Vanessa Wright said. "She didn't wake up that morning, said... 'Let's go to the model house and steal two 99 cent toys.'"

Patricia Wright's son was 7 years old at the time.

Dugan cited the murder conviction and previous crimes for her ruling.

"How could she kill a human being?" Dugan said. "That human being will never, never get out."

The Innocence Project in New York is investigating Wright's case.

"If a prestigious group like the Innocence Project says there's reason to question her innocence, that's enough for the judge to at least let her come home and die," said Geri Silva, executive director of Families to Amend California's Three Strikes.

Despite the ruling, Wright's family said they won't give up.

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