Let a killer out early? State parole board to consider it; district attorney livid

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 19, 2004

Connie Gibson wouldn’t have survived the repeated blows of a wooden spindle if her father hadn’t pulled into the driveway.

When Gibson arrived home that August 1997 night, Hugh J. Doss had not yet completed his burglary. And stuck between the options of fleeing or killing Gibson, Doss chose the latter.

“He beat her unmercifully,” District Attorney Greg Griggers said. “She had about $4,000 in medical treatment and sustained head injuries. There’s no way she would have survived if her father hadn’t driven up.”

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On Monday, Griggers will accompany Gibson and members of her family to Montgomery where the victim will face Doss and the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Just having to make the trip angers Griggers — and for understandable reasons.

Doss, 46, is no stranger to the Alabama court system. As a juvenile in 1975, he was tried as an adult and convicted of a murder eerily similar to the Gibson case.

According to Griggers, Doss killed another woman during the course of a robbery. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but was released after serving just 20 years.

“In 1995, this guy gets out of jail, and a year later, they have criminal charges against him in Pickens County,” Griggers said. “They also had a bunch of reports on him in north Sumter County.”

Though Doss was not incarcerated for problems in Pickens and Sumter counties, he later admitted an addiction to crack eventually led him to Gibson’s home in Pinola. And two years after being released for a 1975 murder, Doss nearly took the life of another person.

With one murder conviction in the bag, Doss was eligible for life in prison. At the minimum, he would receive 15 years of jail time, according to state law.

Faced with a life sentence, Doss pleaded guilty to robbery, burglary and attempted murder for the savage beating of Gibson. And with the plea, Doss was given just 16 years in prison.

Monday, six years after almost ending the life of yet another person, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles will consider letting Doss out of prison again.

“You can’t help but be concerned with the current atmosphere in Montgomery,” Griggers said. “They’re considering parole of everybody.”

With a well-publicized state financial crisis, Alabama’s parole board has released numerous convicts, no matter how gruesome their offense.

Griggers and Gibson will appear in front of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles to vehemently object to the early release of Doss.

“I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of Mrs. Gibson,” Griggers said. “She’s scared to death that they’re going to let him out and that he’s going to come straight back to Pinola.”

Gibson will not testify at the Monday morning hearing, but Griggers said she has written a letter to the board.

“It is offensive that they would even hold this hearing,” Griggers said. “This guy serves six years of a 16 year sentence, he’s already killed one innocent woman and tried to kill another one, and you’re going to consider letting him out?”

Worse than having to appear at the hearing, however, is the pain Gibson will suffer reliving that near-fatal night.

“They’re making [Gibson] go through this all over again,” he said. “It’s not fair. She doesn’t deserve this, and I’m tired of dealing with him.”

As a district attorney, Griggers is an employee of the state, and he understands the financial squeeze facing Alabama. But in cases like this, Griggers said state finances matter little.

“That’s not my problem,” he said. “You don’t let these dangerous people back in society. This kind of person will go right back out and do the same thing again.”

The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles begins its hearings Monday at 8:30 a.m. in Montgomery. In most cases, the board announces its decision immediately after the hearing.