The California Supreme Court has upheld the voter-approved initiative called Marsy’s Law, which increased the deferral period between parole hearings to a maximum of 15 years.
The court on March 4 rejected a challenge brought by Michael Vicks, a prisoner serving a life term with the possibility of parole, and upheld the law as written. Vicks claimed the law violated the ex-post facto clauses of the state and federal constitutions because it retroactively increased the punishment for his crime.
The Supreme Court determined that Marsy’s Law does not violate the ex-post facto clause and does not create a significant risk of prolonging incarceration, even though the minimum period between subsequent parole hearings was increased from one year to three years, and a maximum of 15 years. However, the law made provisions for an inmate to make a written request to have an earlier hearing at any time following the denial of parole at a regularly scheduled hearing.
If the board grants an earlier hearing and the inmate is again denied parole, the inmate must wait three years before submitting another written request.
When Vicks was convicted of his crimes in 1983, the parole board could defer parole for one, two or three years. In 1994, the maximum increased to five years for prisoners convicted of murder.
Marsy’s Law was approved by voters in 2008. Under Marsy’s Law, the board also has discretion to deny parole for five, seven or 10 years.
The case is In re Michael D. Vicks on Habeas Corpus, Case No. S194129