New state law helps victims relive grief less often

Frequency of parole hearings changed

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Each year hundreds of families whose loved ones have been murdered make the trek to Tallahassee to try and keep the convicted murderer from being paroled. But state lawmakers made a change this year that will make victim's families relive their grief less often.

Florida abolished parole in 1995, but many convicted before then are still eligible to be paroled.

Linda Simpson's police officer husband John Kennedy, was murdered in 1974. Officer Kennedy's killer got life, which back then meant 25 years. Since 1999, Simpson has brought her family to Tallahassee to say no to the killers parole.

"The pain and hardship a family endures when a loved one is taken from you in such a brutal way is indescribable," said Simpson.

First the family came every two years, because state law said that's how often the killer deserved a hearing, but then it was lengthened to five years. Now, a new change pushes the hearings to every seven years. Linda's oldest daughter, Dawn Kennedy Overton, said the change will be a relief.

"It's painful, you know, it's never going to be removed, it's never going to go away. So, I'm glad that we got from five to seven years," said Overton.

Only a small percentage of victims actually show up, in part because these cases are 35 to 40 years old. On the other side, the family of the inmates say this hurts them.

"I need my husband, my best friend, my soul mate. Home, I need him home," said Pam Morgan, wife of a convicted killer.

But the family of John Kennedy, which last made their case in 2008, is now happy they don't have to come back until 2020.

"It's very emotional, it stirs up everything," said Overton.

But when the time comes, they say they will be here just as they have in the past.

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