March 07--The convicted cop killer who came up for his first parole board hearing Wednesday told the board he has but one regret in the chain of events that led to his incarceration, according to the officer's widow.
But that single bit of remorse comes not from shooting then-Albuquerque police officer Gerald Cline once through the heart with a high-caliber rifle at a Central Avenue motel in February 1983. Rather, Joel Lee Compton, 59, said he regrets only getting in a confrontation with other hotel guests, prompting Cline to arrive at the scene in response to a "suspicious person with a gun."
Cline's widow, Yolanda Cline, was at the hearing in Santa Fe speaking alongside two family members against Compton's release. She said Compton also told the board that he hadn't taken substance abuse or anger management classes while in prison, nor did he outline a plan of what his life would be should he be released from prison.
Compton had a bloodalcohol level of 0.20 when he shot Cline, according to news reports at the time.
The New Mexico Parole Board won't make its ruling public until Compton sees the board's verdict and signs off on it from prison in Lea County. A parole board spokeswoman said the ruling could be released as early as Friday.
"The man stood a fair chance," Cline told the Journal on Wednesday. "But his demeanor throughout the whole hearing -- he didn't even want to be there at the end."
Cline said Compton blamed his defense attorney at the time, Albert "Pat" Murdoch, for what he called an unfair trial, and denied shooting the officer.
Compton also became frustrated about 45 minutes into the hearing and chose to leave early, Cline said.
"He decided that he wasn't getting a fair hearing," Cline said.
The board got one letter asking that Compton be released, Cline said, but she doesn't know who wrote it. The board also got around 500 letters from around the country opposing Compton's release, and Cline said she's grateful to all who joined the effort.
Compton was initially sentenced to death in September 1983, but then-New Mexico Gov. Toney Anaya commuted the sentences of all the convicted criminals on the death row at the time. That meant that Compton had to serve a minimum of 30 years in prison before becoming parole eligible.
Cline said she and her family members stressed to the board the nature of Compton's crime and pointed out that he would have been put to death had Anaya not commuted the sentences.
Copyright 2013 - Albuquerque Journal, N.M.