Democratic Senate hopeful John Fetterman is once again in the news for his role as the chair of the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. In 2019, Fetterman and the rest of the board unanimously voted to free a man convicted of murdering someone and then ordering a hit on his accomplice.
Back in 1976, Charles "Zeke" Goldblum was convicted of the first-degree murder of George Wilhelm. Goldblum and his accomplice, Clarence Miller, lured Wilhelm into a Pittsburgh parking garage, where Goldblum stabbed Wilhelm with the shears 26 times.
According to court documents, Wilhelm learned that Goldblum and Miller had conspired to burn down a restaurant owned by Goldblum so that they could collect the insurance money on it. Wilhelm then demanded payment to keep quiet about the insurance fraud scheme, which motivated the murder.
While out on bond awaiting trial, Goldblum then tried to hire an undercover cop to kill Miller, who was widely expected to testify against Goldblum. Though Goldblum has long maintained that Miller was the actual assailant in the Wilhelm stabbing and that he merely witnessed it, Goldblum did admit that he "put a hit out on Miller."
Goldblum and Miller were both convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In the decades since his conviction, Goldblum had appealed for clemency seven times, and was summarily rejected. However, despite the wishes of the Wilhelm family, the Board of Pardons reversed course and voted in 2019 to release him.
"We thought [Goldblum's life sentence] would be just that—a life sentence without the possibility of parole," said Sandra Horton, Wilhelm's niece, "and that he would be made to accept his role in George’s brutal death.
Horton specifically blamed Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) and Fetterman for the systemic changes which now permit the release of violent offenders like Goldblum.
"It’s Wolf and Fetterman," she said. "That’s how we got here. … The eighth time’s the charm."
Unlike the Wilhelm family, Fetterman celebrated Goldblum's release. According to Newsmax, Fetterman stated that he was "happy" that Goldblum would be returned to his family. Fetterman also insisted that Goldblum was "not a threat to public safety."
"John is proud of his work on the Board of Pardons giving second chances to non-violent offenders and the wrongfully convicted," said Fetterman spokesman Joe Calvello.
"Goldblum was wrongfully convicted and that is why John, along with every other member of the Board of Pardons, voted to recommend clemency," Calvello continued. "The judge and prosecutor that presided over his trial also came to this conclusion and advocated for his release."
Calvello is correct. The judge and prosecutor in the case have since reconsidered the role that Goldblum played in the Wilhelm murder. They now believe that Miller actually killed Wilhelm and that Goldblum had been the accomplice. However, they have not given definitive reasons for their change of heart, and a federal appeals court stated in 2007 that the evidence presented at the original trial established "Goldblum's guilt."
Fetterman's Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, has accused Fetterman of taking a "soft-on-crime" approach that endangers public safety. Fetterman currently holds a slight edge in the polls, according to RealClearPolitics.