By Tiffany Chan

BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Two Brockton men, convicted separately for first-degree murder, could soon be eligible for parole. Governor Charlie Baker announced the commutations Wednesday for Thomas Koonce and William Allen.

“William is so grateful,” said Allen’s attorney, Kristine McDonald. “William is also aware of the responsibilities this places on his shoulders.”

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Governor Baker said he spent months weighing the circumstances, writing in a statement:

“I believe both men, having taken responsibility for their actions and paid their debt to the Commonwealth by serving sentences longer than most individuals found guilty of similar actions, deserve the right to seek parole from prison.”

William Allen, center, had his first-degree murder charge commuted by Gov. Charlie Baker. (Courtesy Photo)

Allen, now 48, has spent more than half his life in prison for a murder and armed robbery. His attorney said while Allen admits to being involved in the robbery, he wasn’t the killer and deserves a second chance.

“I really believe taking this step, Governor Baker has really advanced the cause of justice in Massachusetts,” said McDonald.

Both Koonce and Allen now need approval from the eight members of the Governor’s Council.

Thomas Koonce. (Image Credit: Tim Foley)

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Councilor Mary Hurley told WBZ-TV that as of Wednesday, she supports commuting both first-degree sentences.

“Yes, yes. One is 30 years and the other is 24 years. Their eligibility for second-degree murder would’ve been 15 years, so I think it’s justice being served,” she said.

Koonce, a former United States Marine, has served 30 years in prison for the 1987 murder of Mark Santos.

Allen has served 27 years in prison for his role in the 1994 murder of Purvis Bester. His co-defendant stabbed the victim to death. That co-defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was released in 2011.

New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty was part of the movement urging Baker to commute Allen’s sentence. “It’s probably the greatest team victory that I’ve ever been a part of,” McCourty said Wednesday. “To see a man that has been in jail for 27 years on a life sentence be told that you’re going to go home, to me that’s just unbelievable.”

The Plymouth County District Attorney’s office and members of the victim’s family support the move.

Allen’s attorney knows their work is not done, but they’re optimistic.

“We have to earn their votes,” said McDonald. “We have to earn their confidence as well.”

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(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Tiffany Chan