74-year-old Bobby Sneed has been incarcerated for 47 years. (Photo provided by family)

Bobby Sneed, a 74-year-old man who has been incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for 47 years, was unanimously granted parole in March. But days before his release, he collapsed in prison and had to be hospitalized. 

Prison officials alleged it was an overdose, and that a drug test found he was positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines. As a result, Sneed has remained incarcerated for over a month after his scheduled release date facing disciplinary charges for having contraband in prison. If found guilty of those charges, his lawyer Thomas Frampton warned, he would likely have his parole revoked — and potentially die in prison.

At a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday, Sneed was found not guilty of the contraband charge, Frampton said. (Unlike parole hearings, which are broadcast online, disciplinary hearings are not open to the public.) But immediately following the board’s verdict, they announced a new disciplinary charge against him. They allege he was in the wrong dorm when he collapsed. 

Now, Sneed has another disciplinary hearing for the new charge scheduled for Thursday afternoon. If found guilty of that charge, he again faces the possibility that his parole will be revoked and he may spend years more in prison. 

“We’ve rocketed past the tragedy stage and are just squarely in the farce stage now,” Frampton said. “Literally in the same breath that they announced that verdict, they informed us that they were alleging a new rule violation.”

Frampton said there was no indication prior to the disciplinary hearing on Wednesday that Sneed would be facing any additional charges.

“Never,” Frampton said. “It’s very common when somebody is brought in front of the disciplinary board for there to be multiple charges — one charge for each rule violation — and at no point between March 25 and today did anyone ever suggest that he might have committed some rule violation other than contraband during this whole process.” 

It wasn’t until the disciplinary board — which consists of two members — announced that Sneed was acquitted of the contraband charge that they informed him he would be facing a new charge, Frampton said. 

On Wednesday evening, Ken Pastorick, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections said in an email that “Disciplinary Board actions are still pending.” He did not specifically respond to requests to confirm the result of the hearing, the new charge, or to questions regarding why Sneed wasn’t informed of the new charge prior to the hearing.

Francis Abbott, executive director of the Louisiana Board of Pardons & Committee on Parole, said that he had not yet heard any information regarding the results of the hearing or the new charge from the prison. He declined to comment or say whether or not Sneed would have his parole revoked if found guilty of the new charge. 

Prior to the hearing on Wednesday, Abbott suggested that if Sneed were found guilty of the contraband charge, it was likely his parole would be revoked. If that were to happen, Sneed would not be eligible for another hearing until March 2022. Even then, the board could deny his request for a new hearing. Frampton said he thought that once revoked, it would be unlikely that Sneed would ever have parole granted again.

In an email Tuesday evening — in response to questions for the initial story about Sneed’s hearing, but following its publication — DOC spokesperson Ken Pastorick said that if Sneed were found guilty of the contraband violation, he would be able to appeal the decision to the warden. 

Pastorick also said that Wednesday’s hearing would be  “very similar to a court case” and that Sneed would be able make motions for dismissal, continuance, call witnesses, request an investigation, or any other appropriate motions.” 

But Frampton said that the hearing on Wednesday was not very similar to a court case, and that the disciplinary board did not give Sneed the due process he deserved. No testimony was given during the hearing, Frampton said.

“The prison officials called zero witnesses. They denied every request we made to cross examine accusers, denied requests to introduce medical records, refused every request for other information, policies, and evidence.”

Frampton said that there were other issues with the hearing as well. 

“The chairman of the disciplinary board seems utterly perplexed when we ask them to specify who would carry the burden of proof and what the standard of proof would be in this hearing,” Frampton said.  “We argued that a minimal requirement of due process is to actually have basic evidentiary and procedural rules. And they seemed mystified by that idea.”

But the disciplinary reports by prison officials didn’t add up, Frampton said, and there was insufficient evidence to prove the sample that came back positive for drugs was from Sneed. 

“We were able to point out an inconsistency between these reports and evidence and other versions of the same reports that we had obtained. And also we were able to point out the lack of any evidence that they actually tested a sample that belonged to Bobby Sneed.” 

The new rule violation that Frampton says Sneed was cited for dictates that “an offender must be in the area in which he is authorized to be at that particular time and date, or he is in an unauthorized area. No offender shall go into any housing unit other than that to which he is assigned unless he has permission. This includes standing in the doorway.” 

Sneed, a Vietnam veteran, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison of being a “principal to murder” in 1974 due to his involvment in a robbery during which a man was killed. Sneed acted as the lookout while several other men entered into a Bienville Parish residence, where they beat up the elederly couple who lived there — Curtis and Maude Jones — and tied them up with wire, eventually leading to Curtis Jones’ death. 

Sneed never entered Jones’ residence, nor did he have any other criminal history, according to a parole packet compiled by LSU’s Law Clinic. He is the only one of the six men involved in the robbery who remain in prison. 

Frampton said that Sneed was “gratified to be acquitted of the drug charge, but I think understandably, perplexed, and frustrated, to now find themselves facing an entirely new charge after spending the last 35 days in the dungeon.”

“He lost his dentures at some point during his medical incident on March 25, so he doesn’t have the top row,” Frampton said. “He doesn’t have shoes — he borrowed a pair of sandals that he’s been wearing. Being in administrative segregation has taken a real toll on him.”

One of Sneed’s siblings who spoke to the Lens, but asked not to be identified or have their gender revealed, said they were “continuing to feel hopeful and prayerful that my brother is still coming home after today.”

But they also said they didn’t understand why he was given a new charge this long after the incident.

“I’m just curious as to why that charge was not given initially,” they said. “Why, after he went for this hearing today, he received a new charge. He’s been in administrative lockdown for a whole month and not one time was he informed that an additional charge was being placed on him. So I’m just curious.”

This article has been updated to include an additional comment from the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Nicholas Chrastil

Nicholas Chrastil covers criminal justice for The Lens. As a freelancer, his work has appeared in Slate, Undark, Mother Jones, and the Atavist, among other outlets. Chrastil has a master's degree in mass...