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Alabama Fugitive Now Has Michigan’s Governor On His Side

January 26, 1994

DETROIT (AP) _ In an apparent reversal, Michigan’s governor says that if he can legally avoid doing so, he won’t extradite a fugitive who escaped from an Alabama prison after being convicted of a 1972 killing.

Gov. John Engler’s press secretary, John Truscott, had said Monday the governor had ″no choice but to comply″ with Alabama’s bid to extradite Phillip Chance, who was granted asylum in Michigan 12 years ago.

But Engler said Tuesday he wouldn’t send Chance back if Michigan’s attorney general tells him he is on solid legal footing.

Truscott did not immediately return a phone all this morning to explain the apparent change.

Chance, 37, escaped in 1981 while serving a life sentence in Alabama for the robbery and slaying of an elderly store owner, a crime Chance says he didn’t commit.

He fled to his hometown of Detroit. Then-Gov. William Milliken granted Chance asylum. He got a job, married and had two daughters.

In October, Alabama authorities resumed efforts to get Chance back, arguing that a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling opened the way for his extradition. They were dealt a temporary setback Monday, when a Detroit judge dismissed their request because Engler had not signed the paperwork.

Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley has been studying whether Engler could deny the Alabama request. Marion Gorton, a spokeswoman for Kelley, said a decision wouldn’t be made until Alabama officials respond to legal arguments by Chance’s attorneys.

Chance said Tuesday that he hoped Engler would ″make a just and fair decision, and I believe that decision is going to be in my favor.″

Chance’s cousin and older brother are serving life prison terms in Alabama in the death of Walter Drinkard. Chance has claimed he and his brother were outside Drinkard’s store when the elderly merchant was slain.

Alabama authorities say Chance confessed to helping plot the crime.

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