Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In re Nguyen 5/23/11 Governor Reversal using Psych eval - not supported by evidence

In re Nguyen, G043844

Another big win for the inmates. Governor can not find fault in the Psychological evaluation and expect that fault to be considered "some evidence" to support a reversal!!!

District: 4 DCA, Division: 3,
Opinion date: 5/23/11, DAR#: 7391

Case facts summary

The Governor's decision reversing a Board decision for release on parole must be supported by evidence in the record, but it is not supported by finding fault with the extent of examination done by a mental health evaluator in reaching the conclusion that the inmate had insight into his offense.

In 1990, petitioner in the underlying matter, Hank Nguyen, murdered his former girlfriend, Tina Tham, who had broken off their relationship eight months earlier. On June 28, 1991, after the jury convicted Nguyen of murder, the court sentenced him to 15 years to life in state prison.

Nguyen entered prison with no prior juvenile or adult criminal record, except the current offense for which he has accepted full responsibility and expressed sincere remorse. In prison, he successfully completed a panoply of courses to strengthen his mind and skills and increase his self-insight. He was discipline free during his entire incarceration, and kept himself busy working as a plumber and providing math tutoring to other inmates. The Board found Nguyen‟s institutional behavior “remarkable” and commented it could not “have asked for any more compliance or improvement.” Apparently brushing aside Nguyen‟s accomplishments, the Governor found fault with a mental health evaluator for not exploring more about the cause of defendant‟s behavior.

Decision summary The Board of Parole Hearings (the Board) found Nguyen suitable for parole in June 2009. The Governor reversed the Board‟s decision, finding the crime “extraordinar[ily] callous, heinous and atrocious,”. The Board also found that Nguyen had not fully accepted responsibility for the murder or developed a sense of genuine remorse.

The judgment of the trial court granting habeas relief is affirmed where the absence of a psychological evaluation does not amount to some evidence that petitioner currently poses an unreasonable threat to the public if released from prison.