Archive for March, 2009

Federal judge limits Calif. crime victims measure

Posted on March 26, 2009. Filed under: Courts, Crime Victim Services, Parole, Victims Rights |

 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

(03-26) 16:18 PDT Sacramento, CA (AP) —

A federal judge on Thursday blocked a portion of a crime victims’ rights measure approved by California voters in November that restricts legal rights for parole violators.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento ruled that a permanent federal injunction previously agreed to by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration trumps voters’ support for Proposition 9.

The administration agreed in 2004 to provide, at taxpayers’ expense, lawyers for ex-convicts who risk being sent back to prison for violating parole conditions. It also requires the state to act quickly on parole violation allegations and to set up rehabilitation programs that can be used instead of returning the violator to a cell.

Karlton rejected the administration’s argument that voters’ approval of the ballot measure nullifies the administration’s settlement of the class-action inmate rights lawsuit. The measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.

While the Schwarzenneger administration supported the original settlement, its lawyers say the administration is legally bound to uphold voters’ will. The authors of Proposition 9 had written language into the initiative intended to overturn the lawsuit settlement.

That’s not enough to overturn the injunction, Karlton concluded:

“A change in state law standing alone is not the type of change in factual circumstance that renders continued enforcement of a consent decree inequitable,” he wrote in a 34-page opinion.

It costs the state about $30 million annually to provide alleged parole violators with lawyers, according to corrections officials. Victims groups say the agreement exceeds constitutional requirements, though attorneys representing inmates say it is cheaper than other ways of protecting ex-convicts’ legal rights.

Proposition 9 writes victims’ rights into the California Constitution and contains numerous other restrictions on criminals that are not affected by Karlton’s ruling.

Administration lawyers previously said they are required by state law to appeal Karlton’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This is an unfortunate reversal of the will of California voters,” Nina Salarno Ashford, founder and board member of Crime Victims United of California, said in a statement. “What’s worse is that we should never have been at this point in the first place.”

She blamed the administration for agreeing to the 2004 settlement.

The settlement ensures that parole can’t be revoked without a proper and swift hearing, responded attorney Ernest Galvan, who represented parolees in the case.

“What Judge Karlton did protects that process,” Galvan said. “I think it’s a win for public safety in California. I think what we’re learning every day is we need to use our scarce prison beds to keep the dangerous people behind bars and to give the parole agents the tools to keep the less dangerous parolees in the community.”

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Seth Unger said the administration is reviewing Karlton’s decision. Corrections officials never implemented the portions of Proposition 9 overturned in Karlton’s decision because the judge had entered a temporary stay immediately after the November election.

“We are implementing the will of the people on Marsy’s Law aside from the areas which the court has ordered us not to implement,” Unger said, using the proposition nickname adopted by supporters.

That includes giving more notice to crime victims and delaying parole hearings for inmates serving life sentences. Previously, inmates serving life sentences were entitled to a hearing every one- to five years, but now they are eligible every three- to 15 years.

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Key portion of victims-rights proposition thrown out by judge

Posted on March 26, 2009. Filed under: Crime Victims, Parole, The Law, Victims Rights |

Los Angeles Times
2:53 PM | March 26, 2009

A key part of a victims-rights measure that voters approved in November has been overturned by a federal judge, who ruled the state must provide attorneys for parole violators when it is considering whether to send them back to prison.

Senior Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of the U.S. District Court in Sacramento ruled against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state in issuing an injunction against that part of Proposition 9.

The initiative dictates that the state provide legal counsel to parole violators only under certain circumstances, including when the cases are unusually complex or when the parolee has issues of mental competency. Proponents of Proposition 9 said the measure provides for state legal counsel in about 15% of parole revocation hearings. They say that would save the state $40 million annually in prison expenses.

The judge said legal counsel must be provided in all hearings.

“This is a costly and unnecessary standard for California to use and should be overturned,” said Nina Salarno Ashford, executive board member of Crime Victims United of California. “Especially now, we cannot afford to be spending tens of millions of dollars on unnecessary privileges for convicted felons. Proposition 9 strikes the perfect balance by protecting the constitutional rights of parolees while saving the state tens of millions of dollars a year.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of parolees by prisoners-rights attorney Ernest J. Galvan, who was not immediately available for comment.

— Patrick McGreevy

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Slaying of four Oakland officers raises concerns about parole system [UPDATED]

Posted on March 23, 2009. Filed under: Crime, Parole |

1:53 PM | March 23, 2009

Lovelle Mixon Lovelle Mixon spent much of the last decade cycling in and out of state prison. His last stint ended in November, when he was released on parole.

When two Oakland motorcycle officers pulled him over Saturday afternoon, he was a wanted man again –- this time for missing an appointment with his parole officer. Authorities now accuse Mixon, 26, of opening fire on the two officers, killing them and later two SWAT officers who stormed the apartment in which he was hiding.

The case is raising new questions about the state’s parole system, which critics have long complained does a poor job of monitoring offenders once they leave prison.

There are more than 16,725 people on the street in California wanted on various parole violations -– including 164 in Oakland and 6,532 in Los Angeles County.

California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, a former mayor of Oakland, said authorities have long struggled to monitor the movements of offenders such as Mixon –- violent offenders with a pattern of reoffending.

“I think that’s one of the darker secrets of the whole prison industry, that the … people who are let out are not well supervised in many cases, although not all,” Brown said. “The supervision isn’t there. The surveillance isn’t there. The job training and preparation is not there.”

Officials fear the problem will get worse if budget cuts cause the early release of more inmates from jails and prisons.

There are about 140,000 paroles in California, according to the state Department of Corrections. About 12% of them violate the terms of their parole and become “at large.” Warrants are issued for their arrest, but many remain on the streets for weeks and months.

The parole officer handling Mixon’s case was responsible for 70 parolees, 17 of which were classified as being high-risk.

Brown said Oakland police spend much time looking for parolees at large, taking away from their other crime-fighting duties.

“When I was mayor, there was a third of the parolees, from the moment they get to Oakland, they’re on the run,” he said. “That then burdens the police with having to chase them as well as doing their other work.”

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca said his department is also dealing with the burden of tracking paroles at large. Baca said local authorities need to work more closely with parolees to get them reintegrated into community life, including finding jobs.

Ryken Grattet, a UC Davis professor who has written extensively about California’s parole system, called the kind of violence seen in Oakland “extraordinary.”

During 2003 and 2004 there were 254,468 people under parole supervision across the state and they were responsible for 296,958 violations. Only 14,246 of those violations involved violent crimes such as murder, rape and robbery.

“What just happened in Oakland is a really an extraordinary event,” Grattet said. “Even for this fairly hardened criminal population, this type of violence is really extraordinary.”

UPDATED, 2:50 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the suspected gunman as Curtis Mixon.

— Andrew Blankstein, Maria L. LaGanga and Garrett Therolf

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Four Oakland Police Officers Killed by Parolee

Posted on March 23, 2009. Filed under: Crime, Parole |

Oakland police department stunned by day of loss

By TERRY COLLINS and LISA LEFF – 6 hours ago OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Bouquets of flowers from grieving residents were piled up at a growing memorial in front of the Oakland police department after its worst single day death toll. Three officers were killed Saturday during separate confrontations with a 26-year-old parolee who relatives said feared returning to jail. A fourth officer was on life support. “We lose officers about every 57 hours in this country,” said Chuck Canterbury, president of the national Fraternal Order of Police. “But seldom do you have one of this magnitude.” Oakland had never lost even two officers in the line of duty on the same day. Flags at the state capitol were flown at half-staff Sunday. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returned from Washington, D.C., to meet briefly with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and members of the police department. Police said all four officers were shot Saturday by Lovelle Mixon, 26, of Oakland, a parolee who fled after shooting the first two officers following a traffic stop, then shot two more after a SWAT team entered an apartment in which he was hiding. Mixon was killed by officers, police said. Mixon’s family gathered Sunday at his grandmother’s East Oakland home, where he had stayed on and off since being released from a nine-month sentence for a parole violation, family members said. LaTasha Mixon, 28, a cousin of the gunman, said her family’s prayers were with the slain officers’ relatives. “We’re devastated. Everybody took a major loss. We’re crushed,” she said. Mixon was wanted on a no-bail warrant for violating his parole when Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, and Officer John Hege, 41, both on motorcycles, stopped a 1995 Buick sedan in east Oakland just after 1 p.m., police said. The driver opened fire, killing Dunakin and gravely wounding Hege, Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said. Police initially issued a statement Sunday saying Hege had died but later backtracked, saying the officer had been declared brain dead but remained on life support while a decision was made about donating his organs. Reached by telephone, Dr. John S. Hege said his son was attached to a ventilator and “looks fine” except for a black eye behind which the bullet was lodged. “He does not have vital brain function to sustain life and will not regain that,” Hege said, adding that the family would soon make a decision about continuing life support. After shooting Hege and Dunakin, the gunman fled on foot, police said, leading to an intense manhunt. Two hours later, officers found the gunman inside a nearby apartment building. When a SWAT team entered, the gunman opened fire, police said. Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35, were killed and a third officer was grazed by a bullet, police said. Officers returned fire, killing Mixon, police said. Mixon had previously served six years in state prison for assault with a firearm during an armed robbery in San Francisco, the family said. While he was in Corcoran state prison, he married his childhood girlfriend, they said. Mixon’s uncle, 38-year-old Curtis Mixon of Fremont, said his nephew had become depressed because as a convicted felon he could not find work. His nephew expected authorities to issue an arrest warrant for missing parole meetings, even though the he felt he was not to blame, he said. “I think his frustration was building up, but he was trying to better himself,” Curtis Mixon said. LaTasha Mixon said Sunday her cousin was “not a monster.” Dunakin is survived by his wife of 16 years and their three children, two boys ages 15 and 8, and a 13-year-old daughter, said Maxine Schwab, Dunakin’s mother-in-law. “He was smart, and he was so good with people, very warm and affectionate,” said Schwab. “If you met him, you’d be charmed by him.” Schwarzenegger’s office said that like Dunakin, Romans, who lived in Danville, left behind a wife and three children. Friends who knew Sakai from his days at the University of California at Berkeley and his continued involvement in his college fraternity said he was married to a campus police officer and was the father of a young daughter. He and his family lived in Castro Valley. Oren Levy, a fraternity brother of Sakai, said his friend grew up in Big Bear and was an accomplished mountain biker and outdoorsman who majored in forestry and graduated in 1995. As an undergraduate at Berkeley, Sakai worked for the campus police department as a student volunteer. After graduation, Sakai spent a year in Japan teaching English. “His honor was extremely important to him. Whenever there was a situation where someone could take the path that was less honorable, he always advocated doing the right thing,” Levy said. “Being a police officer was really perfect for him.” Hege’s father said his son, who lived in Concord, loved being a policeman. He worked well with people and was an Eagle Scout. He played high school football and wrestled. He umpired and coached even as a youth, and joined the Oakland Police Department reserves. He taught high school physical education for a few years in Hayward before joining the police department a decade ago. He recently became a motorcycle traffic patrol officer, Hege said, adding, “He liked excitement.” As for the slain shooting suspect, Dr. John S. Hege said, “The man was evidently terribly desperate. It is a sad story.” Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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