BRENTWOOD, N.H. — An accomplice in the Pamela Smart murder case had his sentence reduced by three years this week, making him eligible for parole in 2015.
Patrick Randall, 35, of Seabrook has been in prison since August 1992 for his role in one of New Hampshire's most notorious murder cases.
But this week, Judge Kenneth McHugh — who sentenced a teenage Randall — decided to clip the minimum term of the sentence, according to an order released yesterday.
McHugh wrote he believes Randall has matured and accepted full responsibility for his actions, based in part on a letter Randall wrote to him in January.
"While none of his comments are an excuse for his actions, they do explain why he did not value human life at the time Gregory Smart was murdered," McHugh wrote.
The letter from Randall was part of a request by Salem defense lawyer Mark Stevens, asking for a sentence reduction similar to one secured by gunman William Flynn last year, which requires him to serve at least 25 years in prison.
Randall was 16 when he held a knife to Gregory Smart's throat on May 1, 1990, while Smart was shot in the head by Flynn. The murder happened inside the Smarts' condominium in Derry, staged to look like a robbery.
Flynn carried out the murder with three high-school friends, fearing his lover, Pamela Smart, would leave him if he did not kill her husband.
Randall wrote to the judge that he was constantly fighting with his parents before Smart's murder, on the brink of either being kicked out of his house or dropping out of school.
"At 16 years old, I felt I had ruined my life and that my life was over," Randall wrote. "My friends were the only people I felt I could count on and that cared for me. Therefore, when my friend asked me to help him take another person's life, I did. What's worse is I knew what I was doing was wrong. I cared so little for my own life at the time that I had no regard for anyone else's."
Prosecutors argued that Randall should be held to his original sentence and cited his involvement in a 1993 prison assault, which McHugh dismissed as too old to count. Randall was given a 40-year to life sentence for pleading guilty to second-degree murder, with 12 years suspended for good behavior.
McHugh made no mention in his decision of the Smart family, who has routinely opposed early release dates for the three Seabrook men. No court hearing was held.
Last January, a tearful Flynn begged the Smart family for forgiveness while asking for his sentence to be suspended and that he be freed from prison.
Stevens initially filed a petition to suspend Randall's sentence in 2000. But McHugh denied that request, saying he wouldn't entertain another one until Randall had served two-thirds of his sentence.
"We're really grateful the court granted the motion," Stevens said yesterday. "This was the result we hoped for and we're grateful we were able to attain it."
Stevens also successfully petitioned the court to reduce the sentence of the driver in the Smart case, Vance Lattime, who was paroled in 2005.
Raymond Fowler was paroled in 2003, sent back to prison for violating parole a year later, and was paroled again in 2005. Pamela Smart is serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole.
Yesterday, Stevens wouldn't speculate on Randall's chances before the parole board in 2015, but said he plans to represent him when that date comes. Randall has been serving his sentence in a Maine state prison and is involved with the prison industries program learning various trades, Stevens said.
"His work records are really good and that helps as far as good employment experience and good practical trade experience," Stevens said. "So, when he is eventually paroled, he has good opportunities for jobs when he gets out."