Advocacy Group for Karen Kantzler – Jackson Prison – October 12, 2017

Karen Babcock was described as a small town quiet, kind and reserved girl by several of her high school friends in attendance at her public hearing at Michigan’s Jackson Prison on October 12, 2017.  A group of people she had known for over 50 years came to advocate for her release from prison for the shooting death of her abusive husband, Dr. Paul Kantzler, in March 1987.  Karen is 69-years-old and still in prison.

Karen was convicted of  second degree murder in 1988.

Even though Karen had been severely beaten and abused for four and a half years by her husband, it was never her intent to kill him with the gun he kept next to him in bed that night after several hours of fighting.  Karen was afraid she would be the one dead.

Karen’s judge, Norman Lippitt, sentenced her to LIFE with the assumption she would be released in about 10-12 years, since he was following guidelines established during that time period.

“Domestic violence wasn’t on our radar in the 1980’s,” Lippitt said.  It was never his intent for her to spend 30 years in prison.  Lippitt, along with his successor judge, Barry Howard, began to advocate for her release in the form of letters and video to the governor and parole board.

“When Judge Lippitt came to me, he said he made a grievous error in this case,” Howard said.  “Ms. Kantzler was abused through out her life and her marriage.  She was the victim of a battered spouse syndrome.”

Carol Jacobsen of the Michigan Women’s Justice & Clemency Project filed another clemency application for Karen in April 2017.  Jacobsen followed up with a complaint to the Department of Justice since she wasn’t getting a response from the Michigan Parole Board regarding releasing Karen in spite of the 69-year-old’s ailing health problems.  The Michigan Parole Board granted Karen a second public hearing two years in advance of her next scheduled hearing in 2019.

It was a tough day for all of us watching Karen being questioned by two members of the Parole Board and the Assistant Attorney General Scott Rothermel.  It was akin to her being on trial for what had transpired 30 years ago.  Karen was clothed in her prison uniform, handcuffs, a large link chain around her waist, half blind, and shaking with tremors.

Later, the guards who brought Karen to the hearing said they had never witnessed a group as passionate as ours was that day.

Note:  No photos are allowed on the prison property.  The group photo is only a handful of the people in attendance to advocate on Karen’s behalf that day.  Left to right:  Nels Thomson, Barry Howard, Kelle Lynn, Norman Lippitt, Gary Weingarten. 

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