The attorneys for Uncommon Law have won a significant victory concerning the procedures in the recently voted in Marsy’s Law.
A deal was agreed upon with the Board of Prison Terms, on March 27 regarding the Lifer class action lawsuit concerning late parole hearings. (In Re Rutherford, Marin County Superior Court No. SC135399A). In this agreement the board admitted that approximately 700 lifers are entitled to “Pre-Proposition 9” hearing decisions. However, lawyers for the prisoners are striving to make sure that no eligible lifers are left out.
The specific relief is limited to initial and subsequent parole consideration hearings that were due to be held any time prior to Dec. 15, 2008, but were not held before that date for reasons that were not the prisoners’ fault. For example, an inmate is eligible if the hearing was postponed until after that date because the board failed to provide the inmate or his/her attorney with a complete board package, including a psychological evaluation, “in a timely manner.” Also if an inmate voluntarily postponed his or her hearing for a period of time that expired prior to Dec. 15, then they are eligible.
If your hearing has already been held and the inmate received a post-Proposition 9 mandatory 3-to-15-year denial. Now the board shall use its authority to review postponed decisions [Title 15, 2041, subd. (h)).] and convert those denials periods to what was available before Proposition 9 (1-to-5 years in murder cases and 1 or 2 years in non-murder cases). Some prisoners whose hearings were overdue on Dec. 15, 2008, stipulated to unsuitability, possibly out of fear of a 7-, 10- or 15-year denial under Proposition 9. The board will convert those stipulations to whatever was available before Proposition 9.
In murder cases:
- 15-year stipulation will become 5-year stipulations
- 10-year stipulation will become 4-year stipulations
- 7-year stipulation will become 3-year stipulations
- 5-year stipulation will become 2-year stipulations
- 3-year stipulation will become 1-year stipulations
In cases other that murder:
- Stipulations of 5 years and above will all become 2-year stipulations
- 3-year stipulations will become 1-year stipulations
This relief is limited to hearings that were overdue on Dec. 15, 2008. Prisoners eligible for relief described here may still challenge the constitutionally on its face or as it applies to them. Also, prisoners whose denial periods the board will convert to a “Pre-9” decision may still challenge the board’s decision to deny parole in the same way they could before the agreement was made. Nothing in this class action can prevent such challenges.
Within the next couple of months, the board will provide notice to every prisoner whose hearing decision or stipulation is changed pursuant to this agreement. Uncommon Law said it is providing this notice now so that inmates know what to expect.
“We have already heard some very disturbing reports of how prisoners and their families are reacting to bad hearing outcomes under Proposition 9, said Keith Wattley, an attorney with Uncommon Law. “We did not want to waste any time getting the word out to relieve at least some of that suffering.”
Wattley added there will be town hall meetings in May on “California’s Broken Parole System.”
Are you sentenced to Life with the possibility of parole?
Are you being denied parole after decades of incarceration, despite preparing for a successful release?
Has the governor denied parole to you despite being found suitable by the Board of Parole Hearings?
Do you have felony convictions that put you at risk of a 3-Strikes sentence (25-Life)?
Do you want to challenge California’s broken criminal justice system (parole, sentencing laws, and courts)?
The purposes are:
Lay out the current state of parole in California
Understanding Proposition 9 (“Marsy’s Law”)-how it effects Term-to-Life prisoners and parole
Develop strategies to assist in Lifer releases-preparation for the board, legal remedies, and community organizing
Support loved ones when they are released
When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday, May 16
Where: Goodwill, 1500 Mission St., San Francisco.
Also on Saturday, May 30, 1-4 p.m.
Where: Watts Labor Community Action Committee, at 10950 South Central Ave., Los Angeles.
Contact: Manuel La Fontaine (415) 255-7036 x 328
1540 Market St., Suite 490
San Francisco, California 94102
ATTN: Parole Town Hall