With the help of a cane, Betty Smithey walked out of prison yesterday after 49 years behind bars, following the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency's declaration that she was no longer any threat to society. It was a day that for decades seemed unlikely to ever come. Smithey was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1963 murder of a 15-month-old child she was babysitting, the Arizona Republic reports. She was an "old-code lifer," meaning she could only be released with a governor's commutation.
Jan Brewer finally granted that commutation this year, shaving her sentence to 49 years-to-life. The parole board had recommended clemency twice before, but each time it had been denied. "I really see no value in keeping you in prison any longer," the parole board chairman told Smithey yesterday. The 69-year-old left prison just hours after the board voted 4-1 to discharge her. "It's wonderful driving down the road and not seeing any barbed wire," she said. "I am lucky, so very lucky." The Republic has more on Smithey, who managed to escape from prison four times between 1974 and 1981. (Read more Betty Smithey stories.)