California Appellate Court issues a blockbuster opinion in the case of Charles Riley.
On May 22, 2014, the California Appellate Court issued a blockbuster opinion. The case involves Charles Riley, an inmate who has served 38 years for first-degree murder. In June of 1975, when Riley was 19, his girlfriend talked him into murdering her parents, which they did. Over the years, that ruthless girl has proven to be a bad apple, while Riley has reformed his life. Thirty-eight years of reform.
The Board has consistently denied parole over the decades, despite Riley’s reform, and age. The base term for Riley’s crime under the 1976 statutes is 7, 8, or 13 years. It is a “7-to-life” sentence, while Butler’s is “15-to-life”, with a 15 to 21 year base term. Because Riley has two victims, the base term doubles. Riley was denied parole suitability in November 2011. He then filed a petition in the Court just after Roy Butler did, but the Court “sat” on it pending the outcome of Butler’s, which ultimately settled. Riley stated two claims in his petition: 1) The Board improperly denied parole [exactly like it did to Butler]; and 2) his prison term is disproportionate and excessive in violation of the U.S and CA Constitutions. The claims are identical to the ones Aubrey and I authored for Roy, and the Court agreed in whole. The Court tailored a unique solution for Riley, which indeed will speak for California’s lifers when the dust settles.
To be sure, the opinion of the Court reflects, agrees with, and repeats what this little “donkey” has been telling you in these articles, practically word for word. Why? Because as I stated above, law is mostly logic and REFERENCES. Ultimately, the person with the highest rank gets to decide the outcome. And so, if the Justice is someone with integrity, he’s not a “respecter of persons” as the Bible puts it, but a respecter of the law, unafraid to apply the law EQUALLY, even if it offends other people of rank; the decision should be fair. In contrast, witness our friends at the “Bored”of Parole Hearings, as well as overzealous and misguided D.A.s.
I also want to point out and encourage everyone to read Riley’s Appellate Opinion here. It can be cited as ”In re Charles Riley (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 535.” I want to direct your attention to “DISCUSSION II” in that case, which is a synopsis of the entire history of the Board’s crooked policy of failing to set base terms, that has caused the lifer population to balloon to 36,000. Connect the dots to the current prison overcrowding crisis, which in turn has robbed schools of funding in order to keep these people imprisoned decades past their base terms, despite the fact that they [we] have a less than 1% recidivism rate and a less-than 0.038% re-offense rate.
Roy is no exception; and I’m boldly PREDICTING HERE as well that the Board WILL FIND RILEY SUITABLE, if only to avoid having the courts force the Board to actually SET his term, which I believe the Board still will not. They didn’t set Roy’s term; they waited until the last suitability review day they had and they quietly signed his parole release, which is the equivalent of a term-expiration release that they are still refusing to abide by. I said it then, and I will repeat it here: the Board is playing fast and loose with the Court’s Order. Riley will go home as a result of being found “suitable for parole”, and then they will take up to 150 days total to review his case, after which they will release him. If they were to be abiding by the actual terms of the Settlement, Riley would have his term set at the hearing, and regardless of their “suitability” determination, whether suitable or unsuitable, they would have to release him after a 72-hour case records time-recalculation period. To avoid having the Court follow up with a ruling stating as much, I am extremely confident the Board will quietly find Riley “suitable for parole” and kick him out the back door after the applicable 120 and 30-day review periods. They did it to Roy Butler.
Charles Riley would be extremely prudent to file a petition for writ of mandamus (mandate) the minute he walks out of the parole hearing. This is for two reasons: 1) if they find him suitable, he will not be subjected to a 150-day review period which is only pertinent to his parole matters, not the matter of his maximum base term, which when they “set” it, he is supposed to be released by because he’s exceeded it (he has served 38 years and the most the term can be set at is 26); and 2) IF the Board is “unsmart” enough to deny him parole, he can say to the Court “Hey, you denied my claim of excessive punishment because you claimed that when you’d send me back to the Board for a new parole hearing, the Butler Settlement’s new policy would give me relief for that claim. Now, Judges, I’m right back to square one without even having had my claim addressed by this Court. That makes the Butler Settlement useless.”
A writ of mandate is a mechanism used to enforce court orders. Since the Butler case ended in a stipulation and settlement, the parties agreed to certain conditions, in order to stop the proceedings in court. Those proceedings were heavily leaning against the Board, because the evidence was naturally developing, and it is a Pandora’s Box of violations of the law the Board has been keeping under wraps for decades. See, my friend Aubrey has studied it closely, having been in since 1979 for second-degree murder and being denied suitability for literally the most ridiculous reasons; just like most of us. The only difference is that Aubrey has been before the Board many, many times. When I joined him, I studied diligently and added pieces of discovery that were crucial to this case that became known as Butler. When Butler received an appointment of counsel, experts were hired, and our role was relegated to writing frantic letters to the lawyers to remind them where to look for evidence. A rift developed, and the outcome is this poor Settlement that seems schizophrenic because it has given the Board too much freedom to shape the result, which is obviously self-serving. It reminds of the dog that always goes back to its vomit, or of the pigs you wash and they rush right back to wallow in the mud and pick up more leaches. They don’t learn.
Had this case fully developed, there would have been deeper ramifications for the Board, and possibly even sanctions and penalties. That possibility appears to have been what motivated the Board to settle, although we can never know because we are not privy to what went on behind closed doors at the settlement conference. What we DO know, is how cynical the Board is, returning straight back to “business as usual” without even waiting for the ink to dry on the Settlement. Does anybody out there honestly think Roy would have settled for this? Would you settle your claim for “nothing?” Well, the writ of mandate would serve to force the Board to abide by the terms and language of the Settlement, not just “their” convenient interpretation of it. I have insisted all along that this Settlement provides the language we need; now we need the Court to ENFORCE it, which is what the writ of mandate would do. We need Charles Riley to understand this, and to be aware of his rights, and to know what the solution is, so that he can either DEMAND that his appointed counsel file the petition for writ of mandate immediately after his hearing, or file the petition himself with the forms provided at his law library; letting the Court know his counsel refused to represent his needs. Slick lawyers would cover themselves by claiming they’re not allowed to file frivolous petitions, but since this one is nowhere near being a close call, I’m confident that Riley’s counsel will file it on his behalf. If not, I can assure you, that counselor does NOT have Riley’s best interests at heart.
Which brings me to my next point: you don’t have to be a law student to read and understand Riley’s court decision. I encourage everyone to read it. Everything that we filed in the Butler case that failed to be discussed because of the sudden and shocking Settlement agreement became part of the Court’s record and appears in Riley. All of that obscure evidence that we spent so much time digging up not only appears in Riley, it is discussed by the Justices in their Riley Decision. This proves that for my severe lack of credentials, this donkey can be right sometime and leave the lawyers braying. So most importantly, I hope the Riley opinion sparks further investigation by hungry, eager law students, the likes of which I have sought after to produce an expose’, because if you think it ends here, you’re mistaken. I have compiled and mailed out tons of documents implicating a wide variety of authorities. No one should ever fear the truth. While government agencies prefer secrecy, secrecy enables abuse. Abuse of rights; abuse of peoples. What’s there to hide from the people who chose you to represent them? Woodward and Bernstein dug out the truth; sure, it was ugly, but it served the best interests of the American people.
On a much smaller scale, we seek the same result. Here, I address the families of my lifer class, who have their loved ones stuck in here with no way out. I also address the public in general, who takes interest here when they realize that everything from their children’s education to their own safety to their property taxes are affected by the practices of this Parole Board, who gets paid inflated salaries to do nothing more than sit in and violate the same laws they hypocritically purport to uphold. IF they did an honest job and followed the law that states that in EVERY parole hearing they “SHALL NORMALLY SET A PAROLE RELEASE DATE” we would not be having this discussion and lifers would not have a bone to contend: they would either reform and become “suitable” as a result; or they would rot in jail. Point being, the Board would be able to keep its little scheme in place and no one would be the wiser. You would think they would be smart enough to realize that. Instead, they continue their little charade, and the fat-cat bureaucracy with their inflated salaries get to maintain a socially poisonous status-quo.
To conclude, I sincerely hope someone reaches out to Charles Riley with this message, but I hope people are more informed in either event, since it affects all segments of California’s population. I remind readers to reach out and contact me; I do respond to my mail. It is healthy to network and unite; the flow of information is the single biggest threat to tyranny and tyrants. This court ruling in Riley is the single most informative piece of writing I have read on the law in a long time. I recommend it to all; whether citizen or law student. We can work together to reform California and make it a safer State. I’ve made the worst mistake ever, and that mistake led to the killing of an innocent young man. To kill him was MY choice, and over the course of 19 years I have worked hard to reform my choices. I am on the side of reform; but that reform is not confined to my own life. I would like to do my part to make California safer, because I am a resident expert on its evils. Each person reading this carries at least one little drop for the bucket. Imagine that that bucket can save just one person’s life. Now please be aware that it does infinitely more than that; it will save MANY lives. That “drop” is in you. Don’t hold on to it. Read, respond, dialogue, and pass this on. That could be your “drop.” Tweet a link to this article to everyone you know.
Until my next, I sign off.
Written by Rudy while incarcerated in California.