TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Bob Graham, calling for "an act of mercy," asked his Cabinet on Thursday to free 76-year-old Roswell Gilbert from prison while he appeals a 25-year sentence for killing his incurably ill wife.
Three Cabinet members must support Graham's recommendation if Gilbert is to be freed while appealing his sentence for killing his 73-year-old wife in what he called "an act of love" to end her suffering from Alzheimer's disease and a bone ailment.
An informal survey of Cabinet members showed that two support Graham's recommendation, two oppose it and two are undecided.
Gilbert is serving his mandatory 25-year sentence at the Avon Park Correctional Institute for shooting his wife, Emily, to death last March 4 as she sat on a sofa in their South Florida condominium.
"I feel justice would be served by the 76-year-old sick man being able to continue his appeal from his home, rather than prison," Graham told a news conference. The appeal could take up to two years.
Under the governor's proposal, Gilbert would remain in Broward County under the supervision of state parole officers and could not own firearms.
"This recommendation represents an act of mercy extended to an elderly defendant in ill health," Graham said. "It does not indicate that what Mr. Gilbert has done is acceptable in the eyes of the people of Florida."
Gilbert, who has suffered from a kidney ailment during his imprisonment, refused to talk with reporters Thursday.
"He is relieved now, and he feels some progress has been made and he is hopeful. Physically and mentally, he's holding up well," Assistant Prison Supt. Dick Hamm said.
Friends and neighbors testified at Gilbert's trial that his wife had begged him to end her suffering.
But prosecutors said Gilbert killed his wife because she had become a burden to him and argued that clemency would amount to a "license to kill" for relatives of the terminally ill in South Florida's growing elderly population.
"I don't want to send a message that it's all right to take a person's life because that person is ill," said State Comptroller Gerald Lewis, one of the Cabinet members who is undecided on the issue.