Booth Newspapers, Inc. |  2006

By Judy Putnam

LANSING — In 1977, a Saginaw judge sent 21-year-old Reynaldo Rodriguez to prison for life for the shooting death of a teen who had allegedly threatened to kill Rodriguez’s younger brother, slapped his sister and shot bullets into his mother’s house.

Despite the life sentence for second-degree murder, the judge told Rodriguez — who was married, working and had no previous criminal record — there was hope for freedom while he was still young.

“… I want the record to further show that if you’re a model prisoner, that I would recommend your release on parole in 10 years. Do you understand?” Saginaw Circuit County Judge Gary McDonald told him.

But a good institutional record, family support and letters of commendation from prison officials — 16 corrections officers signed a petition for his release in 1994 — hasn’t earned Rodriguez his freedom even three decades later.

Read>> Rethinking life sentences