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Name: In re Martinez
Case #: D061287
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/26/2012
Summary

The Board of Parole Hearings is limited to finding an otherwise “permanently medically incapacitated” inmate unsuitable for medical parole under Penal Code section 3550 only if the evidence shows a reasonable possibility that conditions of his release would pose a threat to public safety. Petitioner was convicted of numerous crimes in connection with his sexual assault of a woman and was sentenced to prison for 157 years to life. While serving his sentence, he became a quadriplegic after he was stabbed in the neck. He requires 24-hour care for the rest of his life, with no chance of regaining motor skills. The Board denied petitioner medical parole under section 3550, finding that he remained a violent person, as evidenced by his many disciplinary problems, and is capable of using others to carry out threats, such that he remains a threat to public safety if paroled. Reversed. Medical parole is only available to an inmate who is permanently medically incapacitated, i.e., has a condition that renders him permanently unable to perform activities of basic daily living, such that he requires 24-hour care, and the incapacitation did not exist at the time of sentencing. If the inmate should recover, he must be returned to custody. By virtue of his condition, such an inmate would not be able to commit a crime similar to his commitment offense and his physical threat to public safety is significantly reduced. Thus, in considering parole suitability, the Board focuses on whether the conditions of the medical parole would not reasonably pose a threat to public safety. Under a “some evidence” standard, the appellate court rejected the Board’s decision in this case. The record contained no evidence that if released to an acute care facility, petitioner is capable of using others to carry out any desire to hurt another. He acted alone when he committed his crime and there was no evidence that he has ever attempted to use others to harm people while in prison. Further, under section 3550, the Board can fashion conditions to provide additional oversight. His disciplinary problems, the vast majority of which involved berating prison nurses, showed that he is an angry person but did not support the Board’s conclusion. If released, the potential threat petitioner represents is nominal and no greater than the level he presents in prison. As to the remedy, the court found little purpose in the Board reconsidering petitioner for parole as there was no change in his status, and ordered him released, subject to whatever conditions the Board finds appropriate.