Kenneth Ireland spent 20 years in prison for a rape and murder he didn’t commit. DNA evidence proved his innocence in 2009. Now 5 years later, Governor Daniel Malloy made him a surprising appointment to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. Ireland, 44, was convicted in 1989 for the murder and rape of Barbara Pelkey, 30. He spent nearly half of his life in prison as part of a 50 year sentence he received. The Connecticut Innocence Project worked hard to overturn Ireland’s conviction. Ireland currently works as a bookkeeper for Capitol Region Education Council. The DNA evidence was linked to a former deli worker, Kevin Benefield. He was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Ireland’s responsibilities will include deciding the future of those who claim innocence and appeal for clemency. Joining Ireland are four others with various backgrounds including non-profit management, law, and parole/probation.
The Hartford Courant quoted Malloy as saying Ireland is “a man of extraordinary character, who endured unimaginable pain of nearly 20 years of wrongful incarceration and yet is not only without bitterness, but is incredibly thoughtful, insightful, and committed to public safety and…service.”
“By long experience, Ken Ireland is intimately familiar with the criminal justice system and knows better than most that there are individuals who deserve to be in prison and there are individuals whom society should give another chance, and I believe that he will take very, very seriously the responsibility of making those judgments,” the governor said.
Ireland released a statement saying he is honored to be trusted with such a position, “Perhaps more than most, I understand the importance of fairness in the criminal justice system and the importance of public safety. I look forward to serving the people of the state of Connecticut in any way possible.”
Ireland’s attorney, William Bloss said of the appointment, “This is a brilliant, inspired nomination that shows innovative thinking. This is an appointment that the citizens should be proud of.”
In addition, Connecticut currently has 14 Superior Court vacancies. Malloy has also announced his nominations for the court vacancies. One of those nominees is Kevin Doyle, a senior Assistant State Attorney, whose office prosecuted the real killer in the Pelkey murder, Benefield.
The four others who will serve on the board with Ireland are:
- Joy Chance, who has 16 years of experience evaluating parolees for appropriate placement in supervised programs.
- Rufaro Berry, a paralegal.
- Patricia Thomas Camp, the chair of the board of Zezzo house, a non-profit that provides affordable housing to low-income families affected by HIV.
- Terry Borjeson, a town council majority leader who previously held a management position with Community Solutions Inc., which aides people involved in child welfare, juvenile justice, and criminal justice systems.
RELATED: Innocence Project Profile of Kenneth Ireland | National Registry of Exonerations Profile of Kenneth Ireland