What Can Be the Consequences of Inmates Challenging An Amendment ?
In Garner v. Jones, 529 U.S. 244, 249, 146 L. Ed. 2d 236, 244, 120 S. Ct. 1362, 1367 (2000) the United States Supreme Court indicated that where a rule change has broader application, it is necessary for courts to consider whether an inmate challenging an amendment has shown that the amendment, as applied to his sentence, creates a significant risk of increasing the punishment of that inmate. Garner, 529 U.S. at 255, 146 L. Ed. 2d at 247, 120 S. Ct. at 1370.
In Garner, the Court considered the retroactive application of a Georgia law extending the maximum period between parole hearings from three years to eight years. Garner, 529 U.S. at 247, 146 L. Ed. 2d at 242, 120 S. Ct. at 1365-66.
The amendment applied to any inmate serving a life sentence. Garner, 529 U.S. at 247, 146 L. Ed. 2d at 242, 120 S. Ct. at 1366.
Like the amendments involved in Morales and Fletcher, the Georgia parole board had the discretion to schedule parole hearings sooner than eight years. Garner, 529 U.S. at 248, 146 L. Ed. 2d at 243, 120 S. Ct. at 1366.
Unlike those amendments, the Georgia amendment did not require the parole board to make any particular findings about the reasonable probability of parole before it was permitted to schedule parole hearings at eight-year intervals. Garner, 529 U.S. at 249, 146 L. Ed. 2d at 243, 120 S. Ct. at 1367.
However, the board's stated policy was to set parole hearings at eight-year intervals only if it determined that it was unlikely to grant parole to a particular inmate earlier. Garner, 529 U.S. at 254, 146 L. Ed. 2d at 247, 120 S. Ct. at 1369-70.
On appeal, the Supreme Court noted that it was extremely unlikely that the inmate challenging the amendment would have been paroled earlier if not for the amendment; he committed a second murder after escaping from prison. Garner, 529 U.S. at 254-55, 146 L. Ed. 2d at 247, 120 S. Ct. at 1370.
The Court nevertheless found it necessary to remand for further proceedings, and it directed the circuit court of appeals to consider the practical impact of the statutory amendment on the particular inmate challenging it. Garner, 529 U.S. at 256-57, 146 L. Ed. 2d at 248, 120 S. Ct. at 1370-71.