At 89, N.Y.'s Oldest Inmate Granted Parole

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New York's oldest prisoner - an 89-year-old former heart surgeon convicted of killing his wife more than 30 years ago - has been granted parole.

Charles Friedgood, serving a 25-years-to-life sentence, was tentatively scheduled for release Dec. 18 after a parole board met with him Tuesday and voted 2-1 to free him.

The Long Island doctor was convicted in 1976 of injecting his wife, Sophie, with a fatal dose of the painkiller Demerol the year before. He was arrested at Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to flee the country with more than $450,000 in cash, securities and valuables from his wife's estate.

Friedgood, who has terminal cancer, had been denied parole five times, most recently last month. But the Division of Parole, in an unusual move, ordered a new hearing, citing a pending court case regarding Friedgood's denial of parole in 2005. The board that paroled him was not the same one that rejected his plea for release in October.

Board members who voted to release him cited his good prison record and support from some family members and the prosecuting attorney. The dissenting board member, Chris Ortloff, said the deadly injection was especially heinous because Friedgood was a doctor sworn to save lives.

A transcript of what Friedgood told the board Tuesday was not immediately available. During the Oct. 9 session, he pleaded for mercy.

"All I'm asking if you have it in your heart to show a little mercy for a man who committed a serious crime, then I'm begging you to give me a chance to die peacefully and not in a prison," Friedgood said, according to a transcript released by parole officials this week.

Friedgood's lawyer said his client's release was long overdue. "He finally got a fair shake," John Queenan said.

Parole spokesman Mark Johnson said Friedgood, now at Woodbourne state prison in Sullivan County, is tentatively set to be released to a Veterans Affairs hospital.
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