Michigan inmate who was nearly released from life sentence challenges governor’s authority

LANSING, Mich. — Three days before Christmas 2010, a Michigan inmate got a remarkable gift: Gov. Jennifer Granholm said she would commute his life sentence for first-degree murder, ensuring his release after two decades in prison for setting up a robbery that led to the fatal stabbing of a co-worker.

But Matthew Makowski’s dream of freedom was dashed within 48 hours. The governor, who was just days from leaving office, got cold feet and rescinded her own order after the victim’s family protested. A warden delivered the stunning news to Makowski. Instead of going home, he would remain behind bars as inmate No. 198702.

Nearly two years later, Granholm’s reversal has touched off an extraordinary legal challenge from a professor and students at the University of Michigan law school. They argue that the governor’s decision to commute the sentence was final as soon as she signed and filed the document.  More

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