Arkansas wants a convicted murderer who has been living in Michigan for the last 43 years returned so he can finish serving a life sentence.
Lester Stiggers was convicted of killing his abusive father and handed a sentence for a life behind bars when he was just 14. Stiggers started serving his time in a federal prison that had terrible conditions and forced prisoners to pick cotton.
He was temporarily released after being granted a furlough and fled to Michigan. Governor Bill Milliken offered Stiggers asylum based on his case and the terrible conditions of the prison.
Now Arkansas wants Stiggers, a 63-year-old man who has suffered so many strokes that he barely speaks and can hardly walk, back in prison. He was shocked at the state’s request. “I’m an invalid now. I’m half dead,” Stiggers said. “What would their interest be to have me back?”
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Milliken, 91, is the reason that Stiggers is still free. “No purpose would be served now by sending that man back,” he said. “Knowing how distressed I was about the shameful state of race relations in our country, I would have wanted to give that man another chance.”
Arkansas prisons officials want Stiggers back as a matter of principle. “I understand the argument, `Well, he’s been out for all these years, he hasn’t reoffended,’” said Arkansas Department of Correction spokeswoman Shea Wilson. “But the fact still remains that he was convicted of first-degree murder in Arkansas. He served a minimum of his sentence and he has been a fugitive from justice for all these years.”
The Supreme Court forced Michigan to return Phillip Chance, a convicted murderer also granted asylum by Milliken, to Alabama in 1996, News One reported. “To the extent that he deserves mercy, it’s up to Arkansas to show mercy. Michigan’s hands are tied,” said law professor Curt Benson.