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Erase conviction, man asks

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man pardoned by then-Gov. Edwin Edwards after serving six years of a life sentence for his role in the 1973 killing of a Baton Rouge drugstore owner said Thursday he will appeal a state judge’s refusal to erase the murder conviction from his record.

Forest Hammond said he first will file a motion asking state District Judge Mike Erwin to give written reasons for denying his motion to quash the 35-year-old murder indictment.

The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office opposed Hammond’s motion to quash filed in October.

Hammond, now 53, claims he never actually pleaded guilty to killing Billy Middleton. He says he did not utter the word “guilty.”

Prosecutors say Hammond, then 17, and another teenager tried to rob Middleton’s Plank Road store. Alton Ramsey, who was accused of fatally shooting Middleton, was convicted of first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

Edwards commuted Hammond’s sentence in 1980.

Hammond, who said he will ask the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to review Erwin’s denial late last week of his motion to quash, added he will take his fight to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

“I’m prepared to take it all the way there,’’ he said.

Hammond was imprisoned at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola before being moved to State Police Barracks and assigned chores at the Governor’s Mansion in 1979.

Edwards has said his decision to commute Hammond’s sentence continued a tradition of commuting sentences of inmates who worked at the Governor’s Mansion when the governor’s term ended.

At the time, Middleton’s widow called Edwards’ action unjust.----

Source: The Advocate Newspaper, Baton Rouge, LA , December 12, 2008;

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