NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Among the 17 people Gov. Bill Lee granted executive clemency to on Thursday was Mindy Dodd.
A jury sentenced Dodd to life behind bars 20 years ago for conspiring in the murder of her husband, Henry Dodd, who was also her stepfather. The jury reached that conclusion even though it was Henry's nephew who shot him.
"She was at work when someone else killed her stepfather-husband and she's claimed her innocence ever since," said Heather Meshell with the Love and Justice Project, a group that worked to secure clemency for Dodd.
Advocates say Henry Dodd started raping Mindy when she was just eight years old, divorcing her mother and marrying Mindy when she became pregnant at 18.
Thursday, Lee commuted the sentence of Mindy Dodd — reducing her life sentence to make her immediately eligible for parole, something the state parole board has already recommended for Dodd.
"We were able to collectively raise awareness with her case and bring it to the attention of lawmakers," Meshell said.
Issuing a large batch of pardons and other clemency actions isn't something governors typically do in the middle of their term.
It's a decision with which former governors have also wrestled -- usually waiting until they're about to leave office to do it.
Former Governor Bill Haslam said waiting until then was a decision he later regretted because of how complicated each case for clemency is. Writing in his 2021 book Faithful Presence:
"I thought it would be better to delay all those decisions until the end and deal with them all at the same time," Haslam wrote. "In hindsight, this was a bad decision. Really bad."
The parole board must make the final decision to grant Mindy Dodd parole before she is released.