An American charged with the brutal manslaughter of Irishman Francis White was released on parole this week after 19 years in prison, despite victim impact statements made by his family to delay his release.
Jamie Carr, from Howard Beach, Queens, NY was charged with the death of 28-year old Francis White from County Louth in 1997, and released on parole on January 4, 2016, the day before what would have been White’s 48th birthday.
Speaking to IrishCentral from a visit to his brother’s grave to wish him “happy birthday,” Francis’ brother Breen White claims that Carr has not once attempted to contact the White family in apology and had not shown any sign of remorse in the 19 and a half years since he fatally stabbed Francis 13 times.
Last February, the White family also lost their mother, Lydia, after a short illness having never received an apology from the man who took her son.
“We lost Mammy in February of last year  but her heart died on August 13, 1996,” Breen said.
“She said how he’d never said sorry. Nineteen years to apologize and he never made contact, although his sister put up a petition on a website to try and get him released and she wrote a letter saying he was apologetic.”
Francis White, originally from Dundalk in Co. Louth, lived in the US for seven years, working as a chef before his death. He was stabbed 13 times outside a bar in Forest Hills in Queens for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Then 25-year-old Jamie Carr was making fake IDs with a friend in a store beside O’Hanlon’s bar when he entered the bar looking for change for a $100 note and two bottles of beer to take away.
When Carr was refused a brawl broke out – in which Francis White played no part, his family says – and Carr was thrown out of the bar by the owner Sean O'Hanlon and the bartender on duty that night, Tom Shannon.
White left the bar a short time afterwards and was met by Carr, who was standing outside, still enraged.
Although White allegedly played no part in the earlier altercation, Carr called on the Louth man to fight.
Witnesses reported that White threw off Carr’s angry provocations and showed no sign of wanting to become involved.
Reaching into his car, Jamie Carr pulled out his knife and ran after the Irishman, stabbing him in the throat and proceeding to stab him a further 12 times.
Carr pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 1996 and was released on bail, but a year later he was arrested again for allegedly selling cocaine.
Carr was sentenced to a minimum of 12 and a half years for the manslaughter of Francis White.
Carr was first elgible for parole in 2009. This first application was blocked by the efforts of White's brother Breen, who dashed from his home in Co. Armagh to New York to keep his brother’s killer in jail.
Until this year victim impact statements from the White family about the potential effect of Carr’s release would have on their family had delayed parole, but the 44-year-old has now served enough time under US law to warrant his release.
“We’re feeling awful but we knew it was going to come someday,” Breen continued.
“Yesterday [January 4] was like another death to us.”
“We’re very disappointed. He was long time in jail, but he’s still a young man and still young enough to start a family, something Francis never had the chance to do.”
With the help of Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney Dan Saunders, who had legally assisted the family when Carr was initially convicted, the Whites submitted victim impact statements every two years since 2009 to prevent Carr from walking free.
Breen, his father Dermot, and his two sisters, Deirdre and Maria, hoped to once again delay Carr’s release, especially following their first Christmas without their mother and the parole date falling on Francis’ birthday, a day already full of sorrowful remembrance.
“To be fair they did their best,” Francis’ sister Deirdre Collins told IrishCentral.
“He was due for release six years ago and he was eligible for parole, but we put the impact statements in and did that again in two years and again in another two years.
“He as been in prison for six years longer than we expected.”
“We lost our mother in February and felt it would be very difficult following for our first Christmas without her and asked could the date be changed.”
“They have tried to assist with our wishes but I suppose we were out of time. For us, it was delaying the inevitable”
Knowing that a parole date for the man convicted of killing her brother was looming and being familiar with Carr’s details and DIN number (Department Information Number), Deirdre had been in the habit of checking the database of the Inmate Population Information Search of the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to check his status within the prison system.
It was in this manner she discovered he had been released on parole on Monday, January 4.
Through this same system, Carr has a means of sending an apology to the family if he would wish to do so, Deirdre claims.
“Because the system in America puts so much effort into trying to rehabilitate prisoners, putting them on courses etc., you’d like to think he’d grab that opportunity to apologize but he didn't take stock of why he was there.
“Is being remorseful not one of the first steps [of rehabilitation]?” she questioned.
“He hasn’t done that and that’s sad for us.
“He ticked a box and he’s being released. He served it [his time] and fulfilled obligations but the principle of acknowledging the damage and the remorse isn’t there and that is hard.”
Francis White was also engaged to be married and planning to move to England when his life was taken. Although the family are not still in regular contact with his former fiancee, they believe she has successfully moved on with life after her loss at such a young age.
“He was only 28,” Deirdre continues.
“He should have been living the life and having his own family. Looking at family gatherings, he’s missing. His children, his wife, his extended family are missing.
“The anger and grief the he [Carr] took that away– it’s painful and it will always stay with us.
“He [Carr] will have accommodation and have a job [on release]. He will be prepared for release, although he won’t be able to do certain things [under the terms of his parole].
According to the New York State Parole Book issued in 2010, the general conditions of parole include 13 main rules which must be followed if the released prisoner does not wish to return to jail. These conditions include avoiding the company of others with a criminal record, not owning or purchasing a firearm, and notifying a parole officer if leaving the state. The White family have been told that as many as 50 percent of those on parole re-offend or are re-incarcerated.
Carr’s release comes in a state with a Parole Board the New York Times recently called “antiquated, ineffective and unfair.” Although the New York prison population has fallen in recent years, its parole release rates have done the opposite, with 2012 figures showing that just over one third of the 16,000 parole applicants were successful.
There have been claims that the New York Parole Board is dwelling too much on the crime of the applicant and their past instead of their progress while incarcerated or on their potential on release.
Regardless of the overall state of the New York parole system, Francis White's family is hurt by the successful application and the freedom of their brother’s killer.
“There will always be anger there,” Deirdre claimed, “and it was a devastating wrong.”
“You will carry that anger, grief, pain, injustice with you. Whether it's less as my own family has grown, I don’t know. It’s still there very much there.”
Likewise, Breen acknowledges the constant weight on his mind that is the untimely death of his brother and the knowledge that the man responsible for his death can achieve things Francis never can: “It’s harder knowing and thinking to myself, he’s [Carr] at home with his family now and gone on with his life.
“He has his freedom now and we have to be strong. We have to keep the heads up. He destroyed our lives and we have each other and we keep in contact every day.
“He was still living a life [even in prison]. His sister could contact him; his family could contact him.
“All we can do is visit a grave.”