December 28, 2012

Court finds that the Board had the right to rescind parole in the case of Pablo Costello

The NYS Parole Board's rescission of parole in the case of Pablo Costello has been upheld, in a December 27 court decision:

"It was within the Board's discretion to rescind parole in light of the substantial evidence of significant information not previously known by the Board."

But in disagreeing over whether belatedly submitted victim impact statements constitute new evidence, the judges in this case have highlighted an issue that may have to be reconsidered in the Court of Appeals.

Justice Edward Spain dissented, stating that in his view "... the record does not support the decision of respondent Board of Parole to order a rescission hearing nor does it reflect the presence of substantial evidence justifying the Board's decision to rescind parole."

He also gave the opinion that "Courts should be loathe to condone what could become a trend in the parole process in which certain victim impact statements are held back until after a decision to grant parole is made, forcing the Board to confront unabashed media frenzy, public pressure and familial outrage, and to then entertain newly drafted but belated victim impact statements aimed at undoing considered Board decisions awarding parole. Finally, those who oppose petitioner's parole release openly advocate the recurring position that an inmate convicted for the death of a law enforcement officer — even a nonshooter convicted of felony murder, as here — should never be released on parole. It bears emphasis that this was not and is not the law."

Pablo Costello's parole was revoked by the Board when surviving family members came forward to state their opposition to his release after parole had already been granted. Costello's appeal against this decision was supported by a joint amicus brief submitted by six former parole commissioners, urging the Appellate Division, Third Department, to hold the Board of Parole to a higher standard and prevent it from revoking an inmate's release simply because victims object after parole has been approved.

For further details, see:
Matter of Costello v. New York State Bd. of Parole 2012. NY Slip Op 09116 (Decided 27 December, 2012)
Upstate Panel Finds Board Had Right to Rescind Parole, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, December 28 2012)
Ex-Parole Commissioners Decry Rescission of 'Cop Killer' Release, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, November 26 2012)

December 18, 2012

Appeals Court to Review Parole Rescission in Abduction Case

The power of the NYS Parole Board to revoke an inmate's release is again under review with the case of Aurelina Leonor, challenging the board of parole's decision to rescind her release after criticism from reports in the New York Post.

Leonor's rescission appeal has parallels with the current appeal and challenge brought by Pablo Costello in a separate case. The parole board rescinded Costello's release decision after complaints that the victim's survivors had not been offered an opportunity to state their views.

In each case, it is argued that there is no materially significant new information to justify the rescission of the release decision.

For a full report of Aurelina Leonor's appeal, see:
Appeals Court to Review Parole Rescission in Abduction Case, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, December 18 2012)

For a report on Pablo Costello's appeal, see:
Ex-Parole Commissioners Decry Rescission of 'Cop Killer' Release, by John Caher (New York Law Journal, November 26 2012)

December 17, 2012

Update on the Graziano v. Pataki case, December 2012

The following update on the long-running Graziano case, which aimed to restore justice and fairness to the parole hearings of inmates convicted of violent felonies, is given by the Prison Action Network.

'Lawyers who worked pro bono for years on the case have finally conceded defeat. "We were denied en banc review. It seems that we lost this case. We tried and are disappointed in the loss," reported Peter Sell, who with Robert Isseks made up the legal team.'

December 16, 2012

Building Bridges - December 2012 edition

The December edition of Building Bridges has been issued by the Prison Action Network.

Their brief summary is given below. Please see Building Bridges for full details:

1.  Bring Back the Buses - DOCCS free bus service was created to support rehabilitation by strengthening family ties.

2.  Calendar of Events - for family members and anyone else who wants to get involved in changing the criminal justice system.

3.  "Central Park 5" documentary, now showing at commercial theaters, exposes the corruption that poisons our criminal justice system.

4.  Corey's column describes his struggle to succeed in the face of incomplete freedom.

5.  Educational and vocational programs were the topic at a hearing with the NYS Assembly's Corrections Committee where Glenn Martin shared the testimony of Fortune Society clients.

6.  Fortune in My Eyes describes how the Fortune Society was conceived in the theater.

7.  Getting out and staying out. Parole Board obstacles, community obstacles, and how to help overcome them.

8.  A conversation about the impact of political imprisonment and mass imprisonment on our families and our communities presented by the Sedou Odinga Defense Committee.

9.  Job openings that don't discriminate against people with criminal records.

10.  NYS Parole Reform Campaign. Let’s pass the SAFE Parole Act this year! It will take all of us working very hard. Will you help? Send us your pledge.

11.  Parole News - October releases, updates on recent Judicial and Parole Board hearings and a report on the Amicus Brief filed by five past Parole Commissioners, in which they accuse the Parole Board of caving to outside pressure.

Douglas Thwaites was released in October, on his second appearance before the Parole Board, for deportation. On December 21, 2011, the court granted his Article 78 against the Parole Board. In his decision, Hon. Lawrence H. Ecker, J.S.C. accused the Board of employing past-focused rhetoric, not future-focused risk assessment analysis, thus failing to sustain a rational determination on the inquiry at hand: whether there is a reasonable probability that, if such inmate is released, he will live and remain at liberty without violating the law. The court found the Board's decision denying parole to be arbitrary and capricious, irrational, and improper and annulled the Board's determination, vacated the denial, and directed the board to, within 30 days *, hold a new hearing with a different panel of the Board.  (*The Board did not comply with the 30 day time limit, and waited until October to give Mr. Thwaites another interview.)

12.  Reentry Roundtable's 7th anniversary - join them for lunch and a talk on the importance of effective reentry services, by Rob Carmona.

13.  Senate Shenanigans. No... let's upgrade that to Senate Insanity. Or a trip down the Rabbit hole. This year's NYS legislative practices are anyone's guess. We pray it may be a brand new day that restores justice, but it doesn't look promising.

14.  In Our Name will be presenting a Veteran's Conference in May, focusing on the needs of homeless, substance abusing, and incarcerated veterans. Ed Tick, of Soldier's Heart, will join with other cutting edge professionals to talk about some effective interventions for PTSD.