Former judge opposes granting Alsteens parole

This letter to Michael Eagan, chairman of the Michigan Parole Board, is being re-run due to errors in the original.

As the person who prosecuted Edward Alsteens for the murder of Kenneth Moraska please be advised that I oppose the granting of parole to Mr. Alsteens. The conviction of Mr. Alsteens of second-degree murder was one of my greatest disappointments in my 16 years as prosecuting attorney.

Let me explain to you how the murder in this case resulted in a conviction of second degree as opposed to first. As you are aware, Mr. Alsteens laid in wait for Mr. Moraska after calling him to his home and from a position of concealment behind a wood pile, fired his rifle and killed Officer Moraska while Officer Moraska was standing on the Alsteens’ front porch, with the porch light on, awaiting entrance to the Alsteens’ home.

A clearer case for first- degree murder would be hard to imagine. The day after the verdict, two members of the jury stopped at my office to discuss the case and informed me that during the course of jury deliberations, one juror informed the panel that he was aware that a conviction for first-degree murder carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison while a conviction for second-degree murder gave the Judge the option of any number of years in prison, up to and including life. Therefore, he suggested they could convict the defendant of second-degree murder and nevertheless the judge would have discretion up to life. As is so often the case, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The timing of this hearing is interesting. The city of Norway, where this incident happened, is just now naming the portion of U.S. 2 that runs through the city of Norway as the Kenneth Moraska Highway and has dedicated it to Officer Moraska. What irony.

During my 14 years on the bench, only one instance came before me where a person convicted of second- degree murder was eligible for parole and it was recommended by the parole board. In that instance, I went to the prison and interviewed the defendant (I had not been the sentencing judge but was his successor).

In that instance, I did not object to the parole because the defendant was dying.

I understand Mr. Alsteens is in good health.

Again, I object to the granting of parole to Mr. Alsteens.

Thank you for considering this letter.