Longtime Prison Inmate Granted Parole

CLEVELAND (AP) - William Louis Banks, a twice-convicted killer from Cleveland and Ohio's longest-serving prisoner, will be freed April 26 after almost 47 years behind bars.

The Ohio Parole Board, meeting in Columbus, voted Tuesday to free Banks, 64, rejecting Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason's impassioned plea to "protect our community."

After the decision, Mason said: "The only question in my mind is: What victim is going to have to suffer because of this?"

Banks will be paroled to Diversified Community Services, a halfway house operated by the Rock of Faith Baptist Church near downtown Columbus.

"He knows nothing but violence; that's the trade he has," Mason told the 12-member board.

Banks was represented by Luis Delos Santos, an assistant state public defender.

"Before I met Mr. Banks, I expected to meet a truly evil person," Delos Santos said. "After I met him, I truly felt sorry for him."

Donnell Prater, a Cleveland truck driver who is Banks' nephew, told the board that his uncle didn't want to die in prison. Banks first went to prison in 1955, and he has spent all but eight months since then behind bars.

"I'm happy," Prater said after the ruling. "My uncle's going to be ecstatic."

The board's chairwoman, Margarette Ghee, told Prater to warn his uncle that this would be Banks' last chance.

"If he does anything that is perceived as threatening to the community, he will certainly die in prison," she said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)