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Onion Field Killer Gregory Powell Denied Compassionate Release

The Onion Field killing was the subject of a non-fiction book by LA author Joseph Wambaugh.
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Gregory Powell, one of the two men responsible for the 1963 "Onion Field" kidnap and murder of Los Angeles Police Department Officer Ian Campbell has cancer, and is serving a life sentence. However, District Attorney Steve Cooley announced late today that the California Board of Parole Hearings has denied Powell a compassionate release from prison.“To have released the man who kidnapped and callously executed Officer Ian Campbell would have been a travesty of justice,” said Cooley.

Powell, now 78, and Jimmy Lee Smith kidnapped Campbell and his partner, Karl Hettinger, after the officers pulled them over in Hollywood. The kidnappers took the officers by car to an onion field in Bakersfield, where Campbell was executed. Hettinger escaped. Powell and Smith were arrested, returned to L.A. and ultimately convicted for the crimes.

However, it was not so cut-and-dried, as the convictions were overturned, and then both men were convicted again in retrial. Powell was given the death sentence, however that was commuted to life when the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in 1972--a fate shared with fellow convicts like Charles Manson and his Manson Family members. Smith was released in 1982.

Smith died in prison of a heart attack in 2007, after several years spent post-release being returned to prison for various offenses, then ultimately for violating his parole.

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Powell's compassionate release was denied on the grounds that, among other reasons, Powell is still considered a threat to society. Members of Campbell's family and reps from the LAPD were present to speak in opposition of Powell's release.

Powell did not personally seek the release, says CNN International, who note that Powell's eligibility is a matter of qualification under the law. Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation explains:

"If an inmate is not on death row and is not serving life without parole and he's terminally ill and basically has six months or less to live as determined by a physician, then he meets the criteria under the law to be considered for compassionate release."

Details about Powell's illness have not been made public.