Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In re Reynolds 2/24/17: Stale Psych records: Gov. Arbitrarily ignored Pertinent evidence.

  In re Reynolds, 2017 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1374 
  California 1st District Court of Appeal, Div 2
  A146227 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 24, 2017) 

Jude Kline strikes again to give the LIFERS another good CA State case.
Although this is UNPUBLISHED, there are some good wording, for arguments in future Writs against a Governor reversal. NOTE:Staled evidence used by an old 2011 Psychological evaluation indicated that the Gov. arbitrarily ignored probative current evidence.

Dwayne Reynolds, a 56-year-old prisoner, was sentenced to serve 26 years to life in prison after a jury convicted him of murdering his employer, Timothy Fitting, in 1990. He has been incarcerated in San Quentin Prison since then and eligible for parole since August 21, 2007. Reynolds was granted parole by the Board of Parole Hearings on June 12, 2014. The Governor reversed the Board's grant of parole on October 31, 2014. We shall find that the Governor's reversal of the grant of parole is unsupported by some evidence and therefore arbitrary and unreasonable. As Reynolds was deprived of his constitutional right to due process he is entitled to immediate release from prison.

The Governor relied on two factors to reverse the Panel's Grant of Suitability.
The first was that Reynolds's crime was "extraordinarily heinous. Reynolds waited for Fitting to arrive at work, distracted him, and then viciously attacked him with a wrench, bludgeoning him nearly 30 times" Moreover, "[t]his was not the first time that Reynolds had reacted violently in a drug-related situation. In 1983, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon after he stabbed someone numerous times during an altercation related to crack cocaine." 

The second factor, which the Governor dwelt upon at greater length, was the concern that "Reynolds has not sufficiently explored the connection between his drug use and his violence." "Reynolds admits that he had a debilitating drug problem, particularly related to his use of crack cocaine for eight years before the murder. He told the Board that he decided to kill Fitting because when he stole the computer 'that was a game changer . . . . There was so much shame, so much hurt that I would stoop that low to steal from someone that cared for me . . . . He said that he struck [the victim] so many times 'to make sure that [he] was dead,' and because 'I was so much full of anger, enraged, directed at myself. I had spent so many years of chasing drugs where I had become so ashamed, and I felt so bad that I could steal from someone that was so good to me, and in my thinking was that I couldn't face Timothy.' "

The Governor relied upon the paragraph in the comprehensive risk assessment (CRA) of Reynolds undertaken by Dr. Venard in connection with Reynolds's 2011 parole hearing, which, as previously noted, had been emphasized by the district attorney at the hearing. GOvernor goes on to state.." until Reynolds can better explain his decision to murder Fitting and the extreme violence he used when doing so, I do not believe that he is prepared to be released."

The court considers whether there is a rational nexus between the evidence and the ultimate determination of current dangerousness. The court is not empowered to reweigh the evidence. At the same time . . . the Board's decision must ' "reflect[ ] due consideration of the specified factors as applied to the individual prisoner in accordance with applicable legal standards." '(citations omitted)

The Governor's written decision does not refer to any of the regulative factors indicative of suitability for release on parole or unsuitability for release (other than the gravity of the commitment offense), but his silence seemingly indicates an acknowledgment that all of the applicable factors indicating suitability apply to Reynolds and none of those indicative of unsuitability—save the gravity of his commitment offense—are applicable to him.

Apparently conceding that Reynolds demonstrates all of the qualities Board regulations deem indicative an inmate is suitable for release, the Governor focuses on a paragraph in Dr. Venard's 2011 risk assessment as a basis for concluding that, "[g]iven the severity of this murder," Reynolds remains a security risk and is unsuitable for release, "until [he] can better explain his decision to murder Fitting and the extreme violence he used when doing so.

The Governor states that he "considered the evidence in the record that is relevant to whether Reynolds is currently dangerous," but it is evident that he gave unusual weight to the gravity of Reynolds's offense, which he justifiably described as "extraordinarily heinous." It must be remembered, however, that as our Supreme Court has said, "there are few, if any, murders that could not be characterized as either particularly aggravated, or as involving some act beyond the minimum required for conviction of the offense."

The Court goes on to state:   
 "We are concerned with the Governor's preoccupation with the "egregiousness" of Reynolds's homicide—which is immutable and cannot alone support the denial of parole (Lawrence, supra, 44 Cal.4th at pp. 1226-1227)—and the little weight he placed upon the statutory and regulatory factors concerning parole suitability (Pen. Code, § 3041, et seq., Regs., § 2230 et seq.), which the Supreme Court has repeatedly said must all be duly considered. (citation omitted)

The Court felt compelled to reverse the Governor's decision because his crucial determinations—that Reynolds has not developed an adequate understanding of the triggers associated with some of his incidents of drug use, and he must "better explain his decision to murder Fitting"—is based on stale evidence. The Governor has arbitrarily ignored pertinent evidence that is more recent and more probative than that he relied upon.

The petition for writ of habeas corpus is granted. The Governor is hereby ordered to vacate his decision of October 31, 2014, which reversed the Board's June 12, 2014 grant of parole. The Board's June 2014 grant of parole is reinstated, the denial of parole on November 6, 2016 is vacated (In re Copley, supra, 196 Cal.App.4th at p. 437), and the Board is directed to conduct its usual proceedings for a release on parole. (See In re Lira (2014) 58 Cal.4th 573, 582.) In the interests of justice, this opinion is made final as to this court seven days from the date of filing.