September 29, 2009

NYS Parole Board responds to pressure and reconsiders two parole decisions

The NYS Parole Board has responded to pressure by agreeing to reconsider their decisions in two cases where parole had initially been granted, as they did in the case of Shu'aib Raheem almost two years ago.

Again and again members of the Parole Board are being overruled when they have made a decision that proves to be politically unpopular, particularly in cases where a victim of crime or victim's representative has not taken the opportunity to provide a statement in good time for a parole hearing.

In one of the injustices of the NYS Parole Statute, Executive Law § 259-i (2)(c)(A)(v), victim's impact statements submitted at a parole hearing can be used to keep an inmate in prison despite the fact that statements made by a crime victim or victim's representative were taken into account by the judge at the time of original sentencing. Thus an inmate is effectively sentenced over and over again; once by the sentencing judge at the time of his trial, and again by the Parole Board each time he comes up for a parole hearing.

Prosecutors cited an incomplete parole record and rushed to delay the parole release of José Diaz, who shot Bronx Assistant District Attorney Sean Healy in 1990. The parole record lacked statements from Sean Healy's own boss, Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson; in addition, Healy's family had not taken the opportunity to give victim's impact statements. The State Parole Board has now reversed its decision to free Diaz.

In a separate hearing, Pablo Costello was recently granted parole after serving more than thirty years for his involvement in the murder of Officer David Guttenberg, who was shot when he interrupted a robbery. His parole release has been postponed to give David Guttenberg's widow, Barbara, an opportunity to file a victim's impact statement. Her statement will be reviewed by the Parole Board before a final decision is made.

Commenting on Pablo Costello's case, PBA President Pat Lynch stated, "It is our firm belief that, absent a death penalty, life in prison without the possibility of parole is the only just sentence for cop killers." (New York Daily News, September 26th 2009)

In these cases and others, it would appear that despite every effort an inmate has made while incarcerated and because of the injustice of the NYS parole system, the victim's impact statement is the single overriding factor which keeps an inmate in prison.

See also:
Cop killers' pal: Parole Board's Thomas Grant keeps voting to turn 'em loose (NY Daily News, October 19 2009).
Menaces to society: Parole Board pair rightly overruled on freeing murderous drug dealer (NY Daily News, September 25 2009).