Wrongly Revoked Parole Wasn’t the Fault of D.C.

     (CN) – A jury improperly awarded $2.3 million to a man who spent 10 extra years in prison because of a parole board’s due-process violation, the D.C. Circuit ruled.
     Charles Singletary was convicted in the 1980s of armed robbery and assault, for which he was sentenced to 9 to 27 years in prison.
     He was released on parole in 1990 after serving seven years of his sentence but was arrested in connection with a murder five years later.
     Although the prosecution dismissed the case before issuing an indictment and released Singletary, the D.C. Parole Board revoked Singletary’s parole based on his alleged participation in the crime.
     The only evidence against him was double-hearsay testimony from a prosecutor and detective who recounted what unnamed witnesses told them a third witness had seen.
     The D.C. Circuit ordered Singletary released 10 years later, finding that the “shoddy” record at his parole hearing was totally lacking evidentiary support, and that the hearing violated his due process rights.
     A jury that hear Singletary’s ensuing civil rights complaint awarded him $2.3 million for his 10 years of wrongful confinement.
     The D.C. Circuit overturned the award Friday, however, after finding that the D.C. parole board’s actions cannot be attributed to the district.
     “We are unable to conclude that the Board’s revocation decision can be considered the action of a final policymaker for the District on matters of parole-revocation policy,” Judge Sri Srinivasan wrote for a three-judge panel.
     The D.C. mayor has the authority to establish rules governing the board’s activities, “but there is no suggestion or allegation that the Board acted under direction of any such rule when it revoked Singletary’s parole based on unreliable evidence,” the 13-page opinion states.
     Rather, the board departed from such policies by relying on inappropriate hearsay to revoke Singletary’s parole, the court found.
     “The issue is the distinct one of whether ‘a custom or policy of the [district] caused the violation’ of his constitutional rights for purposes of attributing the violation to the district,” Srinivasan wrote. “Answering that question in the negative, we vacate the judgment of the district court and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

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