Here’s why a convicted murderer and rapist is only serving half his sentence

John Waterman
John Waterman(Manatee County Corrections)
Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 7:39 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -A Sarasota man convicted of raping and murdering a woman in the 90s is set to be released early.

John Waterman was convicted of the crimes and served less than 50% of his sentence. Criminal attorneys tell ABC7 that Florida law changed to require inmates to serve at least 85% of their sentence, a few years after Waterman’s crimes were committed.

“It is the sentencing laws that are in place at the time you commit the crime,” Criminal attorney Derek Byrd explained to ABC7′s Daniela Hurtado.

That didn’t stop the judge from questioning the decision Tuesday morning in virtual court.

“Can you explain how it is that the defendant served less than 50% of his sentence,” asked 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge , Frederick Mercurio on Tuesday morning in virtual court.

People across the Suncoast are asking the same question.

Byrd says if it wasn’t for the Jimmy Ryce Act, Waterman would’ve been out by now. He says it’s a rare program to qualify for and an inmate could be there for a lifetime. The program leaves the release of a sex offender up to doctors once they’re in a treatment center instead of prison. So for years, Waterman was evaluated until doctors determined he is eligible to be released.

“Typically, after a number of years of intense psychological counseling and you being in a residential facility and being forced to be medicated and things like that, at some point a doctor says ‘OK, we’ve reached a point where we think it’s safe to release you,‘” said Byrd.

While the state says the rate of prisoners re-offending has decreased in recent years, Byrd says there needs to be more done to minimize recidivism. Byrd says without a crystal ball it’s hard to say if someone will re-offend but more programs like the one Waterman was a part of could help lower recidivism into our prison system.

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