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Name: Martinez v. Board of Parole Hearings
Case #: C061031
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 04/06/2010

Under Penal Code section 1170, subdivision (e)(1) (compassionate release), if the inmate meets the criteria, the Board of Parole Hearings must recommend recall of sentence and release. Martinez was convicted of kidnap and violent sex crimes and sentenced to 157-years-to-life in state prison. In the third year of his sentence, he was assaulted and stabbed by another inmate, with his spinal cord lacerated and resulting quadriplegia. The prognosis was that he would be permanently paralyzed and now requires 24-hour lifetime care. Under section 1170, subdivision (e)(1), he asked the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) to recommend recall of his sentence and release. This section provides that if an inmate has a terminal illness or has become permanently medically incapacitated, and will not pose a threat to public safety if released, the BPH “may” recommend recall and release. The BPH declined the request but the superior court issued a writ of mandate directing it to recommend sentence recall. The BPH appealed. Applying rules of statutory construction, the appellate court found that under section 1170, subdivision (e)(1), the BPH’s authority is not discretionary if the inmate meets the criteria specified in the statute. If the statutory criteria are met, the BPH must recommend recall and release. Judicial review of BPH’s decision is whether “some” evidence supports the conclusion the inmate does not meet the criteria. Here, there was no doubt that Martinez met the first factor – he was permanently medically incapacitated. However, according to the appellate court, there was “some” evidence that if released appellant could pose a threat to the safety of others by eliciting the assistance of others to harm those who irritate him. The evidence consisted of appellant’s criminal record, the committing offenses, and his inappropriate and disrespectful behavior after the stabbing. Accordingly the appellate court found that the action of the BPH was not arbitrary. But, because the BPH failed to follow the procedural aspects of the statue, the matter was remanded for that purpose only.