By Noel Scott
Journalism Guild Writer
Two ballot propositions that make it harder for prisoners convicted of murder to get parole have been upheld on appeal.
The Feb. 22 ruling reverses findings by the late U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Karlton. He ruled the propositions unfairly created stricter parole standards for inmates previously sentenced.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Proposition 9, a voter-approved proposition from 2008 also known as “Marsy’s Law,” and 1988’s Proposition 89.
Proposition 89 granted the governor power to overrule convicted murderers’ parole board decisions. Proposition 9 lengthened the maximum time between inmates’ parole review hearings up to 15 years, among other new rules.
In 2005, a group of California prisoners sentenced to life with the possibility of parole sued the state in a class-action suit, Gilman v. Brown. They added claims concerning Marsy’s Law later.
The appeals court ruled “the District Court committed legal error by basing its findings principally on speculation and inference, rather than concrete evidence demonstrating that the PTA (Petition to Advance) process failed to afford relief from the class-wide risk of lengthened incarceration posed by Proposition 9.”
Judge Karlton’s ruling, which brought hope to many lifers in California, held that the PTA process wasn’t being implemented fairly for inmates sentenced prior to Proposition 9’s passage, but the 9th Circuit disagreed, the Daily Journal reported Feb. 23.
“There is no doubt that the two propositions have extended the time convicted murderers spend in prison,” said Heidi Rummel, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law, told the Daily Journal.
There’s “a huge irony going on here,” said Laurie L. Levenson, a criminal law specialist and professor at Loyola Law School. “You have the governor proposing changes in sentencing and parole…and then we have propositions that will certainly work in the other direction.”
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis wrote in a prepared statement, “Today is a solid win for victims’ rights in California.”
By Noel Scott