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Parole Board Pillory
by Boston Woodard (c/o allianceeditor [at] comcast.net)
Sunday Dec 16th, 2007 1:36 PM
Boston exposes the California’s Board of Prison Terms (BPT) in his latest article written for the Community Alliance newspaper in Fresno.
boston-06.jpg
Parole Board Pillory
Courts Expose Corruption
By Boston Woodard

In an August 30, 2007 published court order by Superior Court Judge Linda R. Condron in Santa Clara County, powerful evidence of abuse by California’s Board of Prison Terms (BPT) disclosed flagrant violations of the law.

The order exposed Parole Board officials of breaching laws (passed by a legislative body) governing the release of eligible life prisoners. The order is a pillory where, finally, California’s BPT and it’s commissioners (board members) are being showcased as the thugs they are.

The order was handed down in the case of In re Arthur S. Criscione (serving a 15-to-life sentence for 2nd degree murder) who alleged that his due process rights were violated because of “unconstitutionally” applied criteria used to deny his parole in conflict with Penal Code Section 3041(a) that mandates parole “shall normally” be granted to murderers.

Criscione’s argument relied on evidence that in “one hundred percent of 2,690 randomly chosen cases,” the BPT found the commitment offense to be “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel,” factors that show unsuitability under California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 15 §2402(c)(1).

The Parole Board is required by law to apply “detailed standards” when determining if a life prisoner is unsuitable for parole. Those standards are codified in the CCR §2402(c)(l):

“(c)Circumstances Tending to Show Unsuitability. The following circumstances each tend to indicate unsuitability for release. These circumstances are set forth as general guidelines; the importance attached to any circumstances or combination of circumstances in a particular case is left to the judgment of the panel [BPT]. Circumstances tending to indicate unsuitability include:

(1) Commitment Offense. The prisoner committed the offense, in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner. The factors to be considered include:

(A) Multiple victims were attacked, injured or killed in the same or separate incidents.

(B) The offense was carried out in a dispassionate and calculated manner, such as an execution—style murder.

( C) The victim was abused, defiled or mutilated during or after the offense.

(D) The offense was carried out in a manner which demonstrates an exceptionally callous disregard for human suffering.

(E) The motive for the crime is inexplicable or very trivial in relation to the offense.”

The Parole Board makes no effort to distinguish “the applicability of criteria” between one case and another writes Judge Condron in her order. The Board is then in a position to frame every case of murder into one or more of the categories delineated in CCR—2402( c).

An example: if the prisoner’s actions resulted in an instant death Board members find that it was done in a “dispassionate and calculated manner, such as execution—style murder.” At the same time expressed Judge Condron, the Board finds that a murder not resulting in a near instant death shows a “callous disregard for human suffering” without any further analysis or fluency of facts which justify that result.

Judge Candron continued that, “If a knife or a blunt object was used, the victim was abused, defiled or mutilated. If a gun was used the murder was performed in a dispassionate and calculated manner, such as an execution—style murder.” And, if bare hands were used to take another human life then the crime is “particularly heinous and atrocious.”

By applying these methods across the board, every murder has been found to fit with the unsuitability criteria. “What this reduces to is nothing less than a denial of parole for the very reason the prisoner’s are present before the Board — i.e. they committed murder,” said Judge Condron. Stated clearly by the Sixth District Court of Appeals: “A conviction for murder does not automatically render one unsuitable for parole.” (In re Smith, 114 Cal.App.4l2 at p.366, citing In re Rosentranz, 29 Cal.4th at p. 683.)

In the case of Criscione, his expert witness was Professor Mohammad Kafi director of the statistics program at San Francisco State University. Professor Kafi teaches statistics and probabilities and it was undisputed that he was qualified to give the testimony he did in Criscione’s and the cases of Lewis (#68038), Jameison (#71194), Bragg (#108543) and Ngo (#127611).

Professor Kafi’s research demonstrates that 9,750 life prisoners who are eligible for parole had his or her crime labeled “particularly egregious” or “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel” under Title 15 CCR-24O2(c)(l). Professor Kafi drew the conclusion that the entire population of 9,750 (lifers) was indeed eligible for parole in each specific case. The criteria outlined in CCR—2402(c) did not apply. This practice by the Parole Board is a blatant disregard of state law and the due process rights of Criscione and thousands of other lifers.

Judge Condron writes in her order that “...every such offense [of the 9,750] has been found [by the Board] to be particularly egregious or especially heinous, atrocious or cruel.”

The Second District Court of Appeals found that, “Not every murder can be found to be atrocious, heinous, or callous or the equivalent without doing violence to the requirements of due process.” (In re Lawrence 2007 150 Cal.App.4th 1511, 1557.)

In 1991 governor Pete Wilson substantially reduced parole grants; in fact, for all intents and purposes, his policy virtually eliminated paroles. A no parole policy means that no murder offender can get a fair hearing as required by law.

Judge Lawrence K. Karlton, Senior Judge United States District Court (Sacramento), wrote in a May 9, 2005 order, “Petitioner presents evidence that under governors Wilson and Davis the Board disregarded regulations ensuring fair suitability hearings and instead operated under “sub rosa” [secret] policy that all murderers be found unsuitable for parole.” (Coleman v. Board of Prison Terms, No. Civ. S-96-0783 LKK PAN P.)

A government official’s arbitrary and capricious exercise of his authority violates the essence of due process. A “no parole policy” means that no murder offender can get a fair hearing as required by law. “The unrefuted record shows the no-parole-policy-for-murderers policy existed and continued under governor Gray Davis. In the matter of Robert Rosencrantz, the California Supreme Court took note of evidence presented in the state trial court establishing that the Board held 4800 parole suitability hearings between January 1999 through April 2001, granting parole to 48 murderers (one percent). [In re Rosencrantz, 29 Cal. 4th 616, 685 [2003]. Of those 48, the governor reversed 47 of the Board’s decisions and only one murderer out of 4800 actually was released on parole.” (Coleman v....)

Recently, state and federal courts have uncovered hard evidence of abuse by the BPT that do not “adequately support” their denials of parole.

“[Counsel for] Petitioners [lifers] provided charts, summaries, declarations, and the raw data establishing the cases of Lewis, Jameison, Bragg, and Ngo,” as stated in Judge Condron’s order.

In the case of Criscione the evidence was presented in a different manner. To “check” Criscione’s methods, the court ordered “The Respondent [defendant] to undertake an examination of two randomly chosen months in the same manner Criscione had been doing.” At the conclusion of that order, the Respondent found that “at all the relevant hearings the Board relied on the committed offense as a basis for denying parole.” (Rosencrantz’s Final Discovery, April 5, 2007.)

In courtrooms across the state of California, case after case, judge after judge, order after order, has found that the Board of Prison terms have completely deemed themselves above the law, ignoring countless court orders to parole eligible life prisoners.

Judge Condron’s August 30, 2007 order strongly emphasizes that “The Board must make efforts to comply with due process in the first instance.” The consequences of the Board’s actions of giving CCR §2402(c)(l) such a broad all-encompassing and universal application “. .is that they have unwittingly invalidated the basis of the California Supreme Court’s holding in the Dannenberg case.” (Dannenberg (2005) 34 Cal.4th 1061 at 1096, footnote 16.)

Albert M. Leddy, who for twenty-five years was deputy assistant and district attorney for Kern County, and for nine years was a member/commissioner and chairman of the California State Board of Prison Terms, was by no means an advocate for prisoner’s rights. Nonetheless, Leddy was absolutely opposed to Governor Pete Wilson’s (and later Governor Gray Davis’s) expensive campaign to eliminate life prisoner’s rights to a fair hearing before the BPT.

In Leddy’s blistering (sworn) July 1, 2000 declaration, he exposed the Board of Prison Terms for the immoral, unprincipled criminals they are. Leddy’s lengthy written evidence reads like the confessions of an ex-gang leader finally giving up the game on all the thuggery and crimes the BPT have been committing for decades.

Courts throughout California are finally seeing the BPT for the corrupt lot they are. Massive public humiliation and exposure of their unlawful parole hearings may not be enough to do the job, but it’s a good start.

For more information and understanding of just how corrupt California’s Board of Prison Terms and commissioners are, see “The Parole Conundrum” at: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2006/12/18/18338477.php

###

Boston Woodard is a prisoner/journalist and is not a life prisoner -
Cartoonist Steven Bitz is serving a life sentence.
§The Parole Board Gets a Taste of its own Medicine
by Boston Woodard Sunday Dec 16th, 2007 1:36 PM
640_parole_cartoon.jpg
Cartoonist: Steven Bitz
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