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Name: In re Macias
Case #: H033605
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/09/2010
Subsequent History: rev. granted 3/2/11 (S189107)

When the parole board relies on the inmate’s “lack of insight” as a factor for parole unsuitability, there must be an identifiable and material deficiency in the inmate’s understanding and acceptance of responsibility regarding the commitment offense. In this habeas petition filed after the denial of parole, the Court of Appeal exercised its discretion to reach the merits of the claim even though the case had become moot because it raised a question of continuing public importance: to determine what constitutes “lack of insight,” in the parole hearing context as a reason to deny parole. The court noted “lack of insight” is not among the factors indicative of unsuitability in the governing statute or regulations. But after In re Lawrence (2008) 44 Cal.4th 1181, and In re Shaputis (2008) 44 Cal.4th 1241, where the phrase was mentioned, it has become a standard reason for denying parole. Noting this is a vague concept, the court sought to provide an objective meaning to it in order to ensure consistency and proper reliance. The court canvassed cases discussing lacked insight and determined that the cases where lack of insight has been upheld share in common “an inmate who manifested a blindness concerning the nature of his or her conduct and/or the very pressures, circumstances, and impulses that triggered it.” In such cases, there is a factually identifiable deficiency in perception and understanding which conflicts with uncontroverted evidence in the case. In contrast, where the lack of insight finding has been rejected, there was demonstrable evidence in the record showing the inmate acknowledged and understood the causes of the offense. This does not mean, however, that the inmate has to accept the official version of facts and admit all the details in order to have insight about the commitment offense.