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Name: In re Shaputis (II)
Case #: S188655
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 12/29/2011

The Court of Appeal erred in re-weighing the evidence relied upon by the executive branch when it found petitioner unsuitable for parole. Petitioner was convicted of the second degree murder of his wife in 1987 and sentenced to 15 years to life, plus two years for a gun use. The Governor’s reversal of petitioner’s 2006 grant of parole was reversed by the Court of Appeal. On review the Supreme Court found the question in determining suitability for parole is whether the inmate currently poses a public safety threat. This issue is directed to the executive branch — first to the BPH and then to the Governor, who may review the entire record in evaluating the inmate’s progress during incarceration. The inmate’s insight into the life crime is a relevant factor in determining current dangerousness. An inmate’s decision not to participate in the parole hearing or psychological evaluations prepared for the hearing may not be held against him, but such lack of involvement does not limit the BPH or the Governor in their evaluation of the evidence. A court reviewing a parole determination must employ the highly deferential “some evidence” standard, which requires it to uphold the executive branch’s decision as long as there is a “modicum of evidence” to support the parole suitability finding. The question whether the inmate is currently dangerous is reserved to the executive branch. The reviewing court is not authorized to reweigh the evidence — it must uphold the parole suitability finding if “there is a rational nexus between the evidence and the ultimate determination of current dangerousness.” Reversed.