Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In re Juarez - filed March 16, 2010, BOARD abused its discretion - Another Win for inmates!

In re Juarez - filed March 16, 2010,
Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Two
Cite as A125665

SUMMARY: The BOARD abused its discretion and denied Juarez his due process rights by its reliance on three reasons. 1) "Credibility" because he blacked out at the wheel, 2) Heinous nature of offense, and 3) violent criminal history.

No evidence supported parole board decision to deny petitioner parole where petitioner had for some time fully accepted responsibility for his commitment offense and for knowingly driving while high on PCP; not disputed any of the facts of his crime; expressed remorse for killing victim; been a model prisoner, an ongoing participant in Alcoholics Anonymous and a past participant in Narcotics Anonymous; acknowledged that he was an alcoholic and a drug addict; pledged to continue his participation in AA after his release with the help of his family and an arranged sponsor; became a licensed optician and successfully taught other prisoners seeking to become licensed themselves; had a supportive family, realistic parole plans, and multiple job offers; and had undergone three recent psychological evaluations which concluded that he posed a low risk for violence if released.

Given petitioner’s acknowledgment of responsibility for his commitment offense and the substance abuse that caused it, his lack of memory of the incident was not probative of current dangerousness and board abused its discretion in relying on questions about petitioner’s credibility in denying parole. No evidence supported board’s conclusion that petitioner’s commitment offense was carried out in "an especially heinous, cruel and callous manner" nor was there a rational nexus between the nature of his offense and any current dangerousness where incident took place 27 years earlier when petitioner was a young man with a substance abuse problem who unintentionally killed a man in a traffic collision he caused while driving under the influence of narcotics and speeding away from police. Petitioner’s prior criminal history did not support the conclusion that he was currently dangerous where his prior offenses mostly involved reckless behavior while under the influence of an impairing substance and belligerent behavior when confronted by police and did not demonstrate an escalating pattern of criminal behavior or a significant history of violent crime.

DISPOSITION: The petition for writ of habeas corpus is granted. The Board is directed to hold a hearing within 30 days of the finality of this decision, find Juarez suitable for parole, and set sentence appropriate to this determination, unless new evidence of his conduct and/or change in mental state subsequent to the 2008 parole hearing is introduced and is sufficient to support a finding that he currently poses an unreasonable risk of danger to society if released on parole.

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