Appealing Governor's Decision to Grant Parole In California
Can you appeal the Governor's decision to grant parole to a prisoner ?
In In re Lawrence (2008) 44 Cal.4th 1181 and In re Shaputis (2008) 44 Cal.4th 1241, the Supreme Court clarified the courts' role in reviewing the Governor's decision to vacate a decision granting parole.
"If we are to give meaning to the statute's Pen. Code, 3041, subd. (a) directive that the Board shall normally set a parole release date citation, a reviewing court's inquiry must extend beyond searching the record for some evidence that the commitment offense was particularly egregious and for a mere acknowledgment by the Board or the Governor that evidence favoring suitability exists.
Instead, under the statute and governing regulations, the circumstances of the commitment offense (or any of the other factors related to unsuitability) establish unsuitability if, and only if, those circumstances are probative to the determination that a prisoner remains a danger to the public. It is not the existence or nonexistence of suitability or unsuitability factors that forms the crux of the parole decision; the significant circumstance is how those factors interrelate to support a conclusion of current dangerousness to the public.
Accordingly, when a court reviews a decision of the Board or the Governor, the relevant inquiry is whether some evidence supports the decision of the Board or the Governor that the inmate constitutes a current threat to public safety, and not merely whether some evidence confirms the existence of certain factual findings." (Lawrence, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 1212; see Shaputis, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 1254.)
As to consideration of the commitment offense, the court further explained:
"Although the Board and the Governor may rely upon the aggravated circumstances of the commitment offense as a basis for a decision denying parole, the aggravated nature of the crime does not in and of itself provide some evidence of current dangerousness to the public unless the record also establishes that something in the prisoner's pre- or post-incarceration history, or his or her current demeanor and mental state, indicates that the implications regarding the prisoner's dangerousness that derive from his or her commission of the commitment offense remain probative to the statutory determination of a continuing threat to public safety." (Lawrence, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 1214; see Shaputis, supra, 44 Cal.4th at pp. 1254-1255.)
In Lawrence, 44 Cal.4th at page 1212, our Supreme Court clarified the applicable standard of review: "When a court reviews a decision of the Board or the Governor, the relevant inquiry is whether some evidence supports the decision of the Board or the Governor that the inmate constitutes a current threat to public safety, and not merely whether some evidence confirms the existence of certain factual findings." (Emphasis in original.)
The standard is "unquestionably deferential," and "limited to ascertaining whether there is some evidence in the record that supports the Board's decision." (In re Lawrence, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 1210.)
Nonetheless, the standard "certainly is not toothless, and 'due consideration' of the specified factors requires more than rote recitation of the relevant factors with no reasoning establishing a rational nexus between those factors and the necessary basis for the ultimate decision -- the determination of current dangerousness." (In re Lawrence, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 1210.)
Our inquiry thus is "not merely whether an inmate's crime was especially callous, or shockingly vicious or lethal, but whether the identified facts are probative to the central issue of current dangerousness when considered in light of the full record before the Board." (In re Lawrence, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 1221.)
The Board must articulate a "rational nexus" between the facts of the commitment offense and the inmate's current threat to public safety. (In re Lawrence, supra, 44 Cal.4th at pp. 1226-1227.)
In Lawrence, the petitioner murdered her lover's wife in 1971 and remained a fugitive until 1982, when she voluntarily surrendered to the police. (In re Lawrence, supra, 44 Cal.4th at pp. 1192-1193.)
A jury found her guilty of first degree murder, and she was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. (Id. at pp. 1193-1194.)
Although her early psychological evaluations diagnosed Lawrence as narcissistic and stated she displayed signs of various personality disorders, after 1993, the evaluations uniformly concluded that she no longer represented a significant danger to society. (Id. at pp. 1194-1195.)
While in prison, she was occasionally late to appointments or job assignments, but was otherwise discipline-free. She participated in many volunteer and charitable programs, and earned her bachelor's degree. (Ibid.)