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Sentencing/Post Conviction

Sentenced to Life in Prison at Age 21, Inmate Is Now 47 and a Literary Award Winner

Posted Apr 17, 2012 6:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Arthur Longworth was only 21 when he was sentenced to life in prison without parole, a mandatory penalty in Washington state for his aggravated murder conviction.

Longworth was a seventh-grade dropout who was kicked out of a state-run group home at age 16, the Seattle Times reports. After that, he was homeless or in jail. When he first went to prison for murder, he was sent to solitary confinement 13 times for infractions.

At age 47, Longworth is still in prison, but he’s winning acclaim for his writing, the story says. He has won two national literary prizes, including one for best prison memoir. The story says his mostly nonfiction stories “are spare and unsentimental descriptions of prison life” that are infused “with a slow boil of outrage.”

Only one of Longworth’s works has been published, and it was by a vanity press in Oregon. His first work was confiscated by the prison when he tried to mail it to his wife, a nurse who married him after his incarceration. The day-in-the-life book was critical of a prison official, and Longworth believes his two-month stint in solitary confinement afterward was in retaliation.

Now Longworth is pinning his hopes on a different writing—a clemency petition submitted by a volunteer, KUOW News reports. The petition pending before Gov. Chris Gregoire is considered a long shot.

Longworth was convicted of murdering Cynthia Nelson, 25, a woman he contacted to learn more about Amway. The woman was "killed for no reason at all," according to former Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart. He told the Seattle Times it was a case of "cold-blooded murder."

Hat tip to Pat’s Papers.

Updated at 8:45 a.m. to include details of the murder.

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