The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a Polk County man who had his sentenced commuted by former Governor Chet Culver is not eligible for immediate release from prison. Culver commuted the 25-year robbery sentence of John Lowery as one of his last acts before leaving the governor’s office in January of 2011.

Culver said in a letter to the parole board that Lowery was only 18 in 1997 when he went to a motel with another man, and never spoke or pointed a weapon as the other man robbed the clerk. The letter said Lowery had received alcohol and drug treatment, paid restitution and had been a model prisoner.

It said the mandatory sentence requiring Lowery at least 21 years before he could be considered for parole was harsh. Lowery filed a motion saying under the new commuted sentence he had served enough required time to be immediately released from prison.

In it’s ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court said the commutation of a sentence would generally replace the old sentence with the rules of the new sentence. But the court said it is clear from Governor Culver’s letter that his intention in taking off the mandatory time served was to give Lowery a chance for a parole hearing to determine if he should be released.

It said the intention was not to allow for Lowery’s immediate release. The court said it will be up to the parole board to determine if Lowery has met the guidelines for parole.

See the complete court ruling here: Lowery PDF