Samuel Levi Erwin is a murderer.  Why is he up for parole again?

In December of 1989, Samuel Levi Erwin was found guilty of second-degree murder for killing Aaron
Cochran while he slept in his bed.  Mr. Erwin shot Aaron in the back of the head at point blank range
with a stolen shotgun.  Mr. Erwin was sentenced to life in prison for murder plus 50 years for armed
criminal action.  So why is he coming before the parole board again?

Samuel Levi Erwin's original sentence:  
*  Life in prison for murder
*  50 years in prison for armed criminal action

After the trial ended and we all accepted that the law had taken its due course and put Mr. Erwin away
forever, the case took on a strange life of its own as the defense team appealed the case all the way to
the Missouri Supreme Court.  These continuing legal battles were between prosecutors and public
defenders,  Aaron's family and friends were not allowed to provide any input or participation.  The
judges even ordered themselves not to read the letters that were sent to the Missouri Supreme Court
regarding the case.  In the end, the result was a plea bargain for Mr. Erwin and a landmark ruling that
changed how Missouri tries murder cases.

The fact that Mr. Erwin murdered Aaron was never contested.  Everyone, even defense lawyers, agreed
that Mr. Erwin was the killer, the question before the court was what sentence he would receive.  The  
defense attempted to argue the case down to a hand slap: involuntary manslaughter with a 7-year
sentence.  Had they succeeded, Mr. Erwin could have been out walking the streets since 1995, or even
earlier.

During the original trial, the defense argued that Mr. Erwin was in a drunken stupor or an alcoholic
blackout at the time of the shooting and was incapable of the "cool reflection" required by a murder
conviction under Missouri law.  The defense brought in expert witnesses to testify that very point, but
the judge correctly ruled not to allow the testimony, as it was irrelevant.  Under the Missouri law,
intoxication "does not relive a person of responsibility for his conduct."  Although the prosecution won
that round, the defense later appealed citing that cool reflection is not possible when a person is drunk.


The Landmark Ruling

The appeal was used by the defense in an attempt to overturn a Missouri law that states a person is
responsible for his or her actions regardless of the influence of drugs or alcohol.  A reminder of this
personal accountability was included in the standard instructions to all Missouri jurors for years.

Surprisingly, several other states allow a reduced degree of personal responsibility if a person is
impaired by drugs or alcohol.  The Missouri Supreme Court ruled on the appeal with a mixed
message:  the law remains unchanged, however from now on, juries will not be informed about it in
their standard instructions.

Mr. Erwin's lawyers failed in their pursuit of an involuntary manslaughter conviction for Mr. Erwin,
however, the sentence was reduced to 30 years for murder, and 40 years for armed criminal action.

Samuel Levi Erwin's final sentence:  
*  30 years in prison for murder
*  40 years in prison for armed criminal action

Mr. Erwin's defense was built on the fact that he was too drunk to realize what
he was doing, but there is no proof Mr. Erwin was drunk when he committed
the murder...(read more).

The assistant Public Defense lawyer decided to never again defend another violent criminal like Mr.
Erwin.  The lawyer quit the Public Defender's office soon after the case.




Mr. Erwin's First Parole Hearing

Mr. Erwin first came up for parole in August of 1999.  
The parole board had 2 possible options:  
*  Release Mr. Erwin on parole
*  Keep Mr. Erwin in jail, and schedule the next parole hearing in 1 to 5 years.

The community of people that knew and loved Aaron wrote letters to the parole board urging them to
keep Mr. Erwin in prison for his full sentence.  The parole board received letters from Aaron's
classmates, teachers, family, friends, coaches and mentors.  Aaron's family testified at the parole
hearing.  After hearing testimony from both sides, the parole board ruled that Mr. Erwin would stay in
jail and not be eligible for parole until 5 years had passed (the maximum amount of time).


Mr. Erwin's Second Parole Hearing

Mr. Erwin came up for parole again in August of 2004.  
The parole board had the same 2 options:  
*  Release Mr. Erwin on parole
*  Keep Mr. Erwin in jail, and schedule the next parole hearing in 1 to 5 years.

This time around it was more difficult to get the word out to the friends and the community that Aaron
had been such a part of.  Time was passing, and people were slowly becoming harder to track down.  
However, we got the word out the best we could, over the phone, in person and on the Internet with
email and this website, AaronCochran.com.

The result was an impressive stack of letters on the parole board's meeting table.  They stopped
counting at 100 letters received.  

During the family's testimony, the parole board was visibly upset with the senselessness of Aaron's
murder.  Normally, it takes about 6 weeks for the parole board to render a decision.  This ruling was
returned in about 2 weeks:  Mr. Erwin would stay in jail and not be eligible for parole until another 5
years had passed.


Mr. Erwin's Third Parole Hearing

Mr. Erwin came up for parole again in August of 2009.  
The parole board had the same 2 options:  
*  Release Mr. Erwin on parole
*  Keep Mr. Erwin in jail, and schedule the next parole hearing in 1 to 5 years.

Once again we faced the emotionally draining experience of re-living and re-telling the events of that
horrible night.  We asked the people that knew and loved Aaron to write to the parole board.  The
community responded by spreading the word via email, Facebook, and YouTube.

The parole board received over 93 letters, a petition with many signatures, and several phone calls
opposing Mr. Erwin's parole.

The family was accompanied by two attorneys from the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office.  The
Prosecutor's Office has an interest in this case because of the heinous nature of the crime.  The family
offered their painful testimony describing how Mr. Erwin broke into the house and waited until Aaron
was asleep to kill him.  The attorneys testified that Mr. Erwin had broken several rules and been caught
with drugs since the previous hearing.  If Mr. Erwin could not obey rules in prison, how could he be
expected to follow the law out of prison?

We were told to expect a decision from the parole board in 4 to 6 weeks.  This ruling was returned in 8
days:  Mr. Erwin would stay in jail and not be eligible for parole until another 5 years had passed.


Samuel Levi Erwin's next parole hearing is August, 2014.

Click here to see how you can help keep Mr. Erwin in jail and out of your
community.
The Case Against
Samuel Levi Erwin
Know someone who knew Aaron?  Tell them about www.AaronCochran.com !
Mr. Erwin's
next parole
hearing is
August, 2014.
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