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Case stayed free despite multiple arrests, violent past

In December of 2007, Jerry Douglas Case got a second chance at freedom. He was given parole 22 years after he killed a man. The Department of Correction even lined up a job for Case through a work-release program. But Case routinely landed in trouble. He was arrested three times. Yet those arrests didn't register as parole violations. His violent history didn't matter. To the parole commission, Case was clean because he hadn't been convicted of these latest charges. Plus, Case kept curfew and routinely met with his parole officer. Not doing so would have been more cause to revoke his parole than the criminal charges against him. Now, Case is in trouble again. He's the man who kidnapped a family of four last weekend as they were fishing in Gaston County. WFAE's Lisa Miller reports. Case has a history of kidnapping. In 1985, he kidnapped a taxi driver in Tennessee, made him drive into North Carolina, and killed him. Under the terms of his parole in late 2007, he had to stay employed, obey curfew, meet with his parole officer and, like the rest of us, he couldn't do drugs. But it only took four months for Case to get in trouble. His sister accused him of threatening to kill her, and police arrested him. The Parole Commission does have authority to revoke parole when a parolee is charged with a crime - and in this case, it did that. But then the Commission effectively reversed itself and released Case from prison after the district attorney dropped the criminal case because his sister changed her mind and decided not to press charges. Keith Acree, a Department of Correction spokesman, says the Parole Commission had to reinstate Case's parole. "This is still America where the Constitution applies and one is innocent until proven guilty and that still holds true even if you're on probation or parole," Acree says. But that logic didn't apply before Case was put back on parole. Remember, the Commission had revoked his parole without a guilty verdict. So why the discrepancy? It's hard to answer that question because the Department of Correction doesn't release Parole Commission files on inmates. Here's what Acree can say about Case's release: "The Parole Commission re-instated the parole since there was no violation at that pointAnd the next incident is October 25th of 2008 when he was charged with DWI." That's right. Case was arrested again. But this time, the commission let him stay free until he had his day in court. And Case had another run-in with the law earlier this month. He was arrested again, this time for a hit-and-run and driving without a license. He posted $2,000 bail and was released the same day. Acree says the parole officer didn't file a violation report because Case was expected in court a week later on the DWI charge. So why is a person with a history of murder, who's still under the supervision of the Department of Corrrection, given the benefit of the doubt? "When the commissioners evaluate case, look at original crime, the nature of the crime and the severity of the crime, but they're also going to look at the offender's history of behavior over time," Acree says. "And they're going to look for improvements or degradations in that behavior over time. They're looking for positive or negative trends. So, was Case on a positive trend? "I don't know. I'm not privy to the whole record like the Parole Commission was, so it's hard for me to say," Acree says. And the most serious charge was yet to come. On July 17th, Gaston County police say that Case kidnapped a 71-year-old man, his daughter, her seven-year-old girl and baby boy at gunpoint while they were fishing. He forced them to drive to Gaffney, South Carolina. The family escaped. Case was captured after a shootout with police. Mario Paparozzi, a former head of the American Probation and Parole Association, doesn't see anything wrong with parole commission letting Case stay free. "We have a situation where people want to presume that the Parole Board should adopt a position of a presumption of being guilty, when that simply is contrary to everything that we know we can or cannot do within the administration of justice in America," says Paparozzi, who's now chairman of the sociology and criminal justice department at UNC-Pembroke. Paparozzi is also a former chairman of New Jersey's parole board. During his 30 years of working in the parole system, Paparozzi says he can count on one hand the number of times parole was revoked because of an arrest. "We can change our justice system and say you know what 'we're going to have a presumption of guilt if you have a criminal history. We're not going to have a presumption of innocence as we say we do in America." But now the state of North Carolina has run out of patience with Case. It's issued arrest warrant for a parole violation. That way he'll stay in jail if he bonds out on the kidnapping charge. Even without a conviction.