No Parole for Young Skateboard Killer

SAN LUIS OBISPO (CN) – A Superior Court judge upheld Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to block parole for a man who beat a senior citizen to death with a skateboard when he was 13.
     San Luis Obispo County Judge Linda Hurst’s ruling affirms the governor’s power to reverse juvenile parole recommendations.
     The killer, now 23 and referred to in court only by his first name, Roberto, was convicted of breaking into Gerald O’Malley’s San Luis Obispo mobile home in February 2005 and bludgeoned the 87-year-old Army veteran to death, then padlocking the front door and joyriding in the victim’s vehicle.
     Roberto, 13, was tried as a juvenile. And though he was sentenced to 42 years to life in prison, under juvenile law the court could commit him only until he turns 25, in December 2016.
     In March 2014 the California Juvenile Parole Review Board voted unanimously to release Roberto early, citing his coping skills, recent mental stability, participation in counseling and lack of serious misconduct for two years.
     Miffed, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, which had argued against parole, appealed to Gov. Brown.
     Brown reversed the decision on April 7, 2014, writing: “I remain deeply troubled by [Roberto’s] continued threats of significant violence.”
     The Prison Law Office filed a writ of habeas corpus, saying Brown’s authority to block parole recommendations for people with indeterminate sentences did not extend to juvenile cases.
     During a hearing in April in this year, Corene Kendrick, an attorney with the Prison Law Office, told Judge Hurst that juvenile offenders are not considered “sentenced,” but “committed,” and are considered “adjudicated,” not “convicted,” reflecting a difference in juvenile justice. Because the rules for parole are different for juveniles, Kendrick said, Proposition 89 – giving the governor power to block paroles – did not allow Brown to reverse Roberto’s release.
     But Hurst ruled on May 20 that voters knew the 1988 proposition also applied to juvenile parole matters. She cited the analysis prepared before the 1988 election by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
     That analysis, approved by the secretary of state, stated: “This constitutional amendment would allow the Governor to approve, modify or reverse any decision by the parole authority (Board of Prison Terms or Youthful Offender Parole Board) regarding the parole of persons who are sentenced to an indeterminate term for committing murder.”
     Hurst wrote: “There is no doubt that voters were informed in the ballot pamphlet that the amendment gave the Governor the power to reverse a parole decision and that this power included review of juvenile and adult parole board decisions. That is what the voters voted for.”
     No one ever objected to the LAO’s analysis, she added, though there was objection to the proposition itself.
     The proposition was approved by 55 percent of the voters.
     In contesting the governor’s reversal, Roberto’s counsel also argued that Brown based his decision on facts not presented to the parole board and said he did not have enough evidence to show that Roberto was a danger to society.
     But though Brown consulted with the county probation department before his reversal, the facts he used to justify the reversal were all brought to the attention of the parole board, Hurst ruled. And there was evidence to suggest Roberto posed a risk to society.
     Among that evidence, she wrote, was a journal Roberto kept that had repeated references to violence and weapons and an interest in gaining fame through “media violence.” The writings included a desire to die while fulfilling his destiny.
     Roberto also threatened the governor in an email, told treatment staff he would re-offend and had been in fights while committed, the judge found. Further evidence supporting risk of danger is Roberto’s mental health – he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder – and the “violent and brutal facts of the murder.”
     “The Governor was free to conclude that despite years of treatment, Petitioner remains unable to control his behavior and resorts to threats of murder,” Hurst wrote.
     Still youthful looking and slight of build, Roberto is being held at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, where he has earned a high school diploma and participated in apprentice programs, according to the parole board.
     Hurst had suggested in April that the matter would likely wind up in an appeals court. Regardless, at the most, Roberto will return to society in fewer than 20 months.

%d bloggers like this: