Leola Harris, now 71, was convicted in the 2001 killing of Lennel Norris, an unhoused man who was shot shortly after entering her home. Despite maintaining her innocence, Harris, who had no prior criminal history, was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
The 71-year-old is now dependent on dialysis as she battles end-stage renal cancer and gets around in a wheelchair. She will remain behind bars after the Alama Bureau of Pardons rejected her medical parole request.
According to the Equal Justice Initiative, Harris has proved to be a model citizen during her time in prison and poses no public threat. Registered nurse and case manager Felicia Hall-Grace testified on Harris' behalf, arguing that she would be better suited in a nursing home than in an Alabama prison.
Still, the board agreed in just six minutes that Harris should continue serving her 35-year sentence during a hearing she wasn't allowed to attend.
“This denial is an injustice and a waste of tax dollars,” said Sue Bell Cobb of Redemption Earned, who is representing Harris. “They are supposed to ask if someone has been adequately punished. She’s 71 and has served 19 years without violations in 12 years."
"The woman is in a wheelchair and cannot even go to the bathroom by herself," she continued. "She’s dying and they just denied her parole. It is an injustice. It is shameful.”