Skip to content
Name: In re Lawrence
Case #: S154018
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/21/2008

In evaluating an applicant for parole, the applicant’s current dangerousness to public safety is the fundamental question for the Board of Parole Hearings and the Governor, and the relevant inquiry by the reviewing court is whether the identified facts supporting the decision to deny parole are probative of this issue when considered in light of the full record. In 1971, petitioner, aged 24 years, murdered the wife of her lover after he reneged on his promise to divorce his wife for a professional and romantic future with petitioner. Petitioner fled but voluntarily returned and surrendered to the authorities eleven years later. She rejected a plea offer of two years in prison, went to trial, and was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to prison. During the subsequent 23 years plus in prison, petitioner’s adjustment was positive and marked by educational achievements, positive psychological evaluations, positive work evaluations, positive interpersonal relationships, etc. The Board of Parole Hearings found her suitable for parole on four separate occasions but each time the Governor reversed. Most recently, the Governor acknowledged her rehabilitation but focused on the committing offense for the finding of unsuitability. The Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s grant of the habeas petition reversing the Governor’s decision. It concluded that although the aggravated circumstances of the committing offense may be considered in the determination of the prisoner’s suitability for parole, it alone does not provide evidence of current dangerousness to the public unless the record also establishes that something in the prisoner’s pre or post-incarceration history, or her current demeanor and mental state indicates that the implications regarding the prisoner’s dangerousness that derive from her commission of the commitment offense remain probative to the statutory determination of a continuing threat to public safety. Here, the Governor’s finding, focusing only on the committing offense, did not establish that petitioner was a current threat to the safety of the public.