According to a ruling handed down on Monday by the district court in Örebro in central Sweden, Östberg needs a transitional period of one and half years before she can be allowed to return to society.
As a result, her life sentence has been reduced to 45 years.
According to Swedish law, convicted criminals are eligible for release after serving two-thirds of their sentence. In Östberg’s case, that corresponds with a release some time in May 2011.
The court gave great weight to the long time Östberg spent in prison and the limited number of furloughs she was granted. The court also took into consideration the fact that Östberg has a limited understanding of Swedish society after having been inside a US prison for so many years.
Östberg was transferred to Hinseberg women’s prison outside of Örebro from a prison in California last spring. In October she was moved to Färingsö prison, which is a lower security facility.
Prosecutors and the National Board of Forensic Medicine (Rättsmedicinalverket) argued during court proceedings last week that Östberg ran a medium- to high-risk of reverting to a life of crime upon release.
“As far as her punishment is concerned, Annika Östberg has paid for her crime. But the question has been raised as to whether it’s too early to change the sentence,” said prosecutor Gunnar Brodin at the hearing.
The Örebro District court ruled, however, that there is not a major risk of Östberg reverting to violent crime.
As a result, the court found that there was no reason not to reduce her sentence.
Östberg moved to California with her mother in the 1960s, and suffered from serious drug problems before running away from home as a teenager.
She later started a relationship with a drug dealer, Brian Cox. In April 1981, the couple argued with restaurant owner, Joe Torre, over money which resulted in Cox shooting Torre dead.
The next day, Cox and Östberg’s were fixing a flat tyre on the side of the road when Richard Helbush pulled over to help them. Thinking they were about to be arrested, Cox shot Helbush dead as well.
The couple fled in the police car and were later arrested after a police pursuit and a gunfight. Cox hanged himself in his cell prior to the trial, while Östberg was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murders.