Lynchburg man sentenced to life in prison in 1989 released on parole

Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 6:43 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A Virginia man who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a high school student in 1989 was set to be released from prison Friday.

Virginia’s Parole Board granted Gregory Joyner parole in November. The Commonwealth’s Attorney for Lynchburg, where this case played out, is still speaking out in opposition to his parole.

Bethany Harrison has reiterated she and the family of the victim, Sarah Jamison, remain absolutely opposed to his release.

In April 1989, Joyner was convicted of first degree murder and the attempted rape of Sarah Jamison, who was 15 at the time. Joyner was sentenced that June to life in prison plus ten years. Joyner, now 48, was granted parole in late November and was schedule to be released Friday. He is not allowed to travel to Lynchburg.

While Jamison’s family did not return our request for comment Friday, Harrison said though she was not in office back in 1989, she felt Joyner’s confession and evidence in the case should keep him behind bars.

“It isn’t just the Joyner case here in Lynchburg,” Harrison said. “There are cases throughout the Commonwealth of awful facts, awful circumstances, where a life sentence was handed down and that person is deserving to spend life in prison. So what is going on with the Virginia Parole Board that it seems there is just a pivot turn here to actually considering the safety of the public to, we just wanna release people.”

The Parole Board would not disclose its reasoning for granting Joyner parole. In the meantime, more people than just Harrison have questions about the Board’s actions.

The board’s conduct was called into question in a report by the Office of the State Inspector General last year.

But now there are also questions being raised about how that investigation was conducted.

The Governor is calling for an independent investigation. He’s proposed a budget amendment of $250,000 dollars for it.

Harrison supports an independent investigation, but believes Governor Northam should not be the one to pick the investigator.

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