Family members of Florida prisoners and victims from around the state were all in one room in Atlantic Beach on Wednesday as a parole board meeting was held, allowing people to express their opinions on whether inmates should be released from prison or stay behind bars.
Out of 41 inmates up for parole review, five of them had family members speak in court, either in support or opposition of their release. The board also decided to release on parole an inmate who has spent the last 38 years behind bars.
Jessie Overstreet, who spent 31 years in prison for a 1975 murder, celebrated inside the parole board hearing, overjoyed that his close friend and fellow inmate Anthony Pedone was granted parole by commissioners. Pedone's been in prison since 1976.
"He went through the trials and tribulations in the past, but he has God in his life," Overstreet said of Pedone. "When God is with you, who can be against you?"
Overstreet and recently released prisoners Juan Lusunariz, and Steven Medlin told commissioners about the change they've seen in Pedone's personality. Commissioners overwhelmingly agreed.
"It feels so good to see someone else with that opportunity, who did more time than I did, get out," Medlin said. "Now he has the opportunity to show everybody he's not that person he was 38 years ago."
Others at the hearing like Jenny Mirabella and her family traveled all the way from Brevard County in opposition of the release of Ronnie Davenport, who murdered 22-year-old Joan Hill in 1976.
"She was 22. I was 19. And now I'm 57 and I wonder what kind of friend my sister would have been," Mirabella said.
They told commissioners they are scared that if Davenport is ever released he'll go through with his promise of revenge on their family.
"I really and truly don't want to go to sleep with baseball bats and butcher knives worrying about if he's coming around again," Mirabella said. "I thank you for your time and pray God will lead your heart to the right thing."
"I want him home. I want him home," said Lisa Moore, whose brother Richard Day is incarcerated.
Moore told commissioners her mother's health is failing, pleading with them to grant Day release, a plea that didn't work.
"I will fight this to the end and they will see," Moore said. "They've kept him in prison for 32 years."