The California Supreme Court has limited sharply the ability of inmates to challenge parole denials, reports the Los Angeles Times. The court ruled yesterday that the parole board has the right to keep a convict in prison simply because of the nature of the crime. The 4-to-3 ruling is expected to keep behind bars thousands of inmates who are eligible for parole. The ruling came in the case of John Dannenberg, 64, who was convicted of the second-degree murder of his wife in 1985 and sentenced to 15 years to life. Dannenberg has a spotless prison record and favorable psychological evaluations; his two adult children support his release.
In 1999, the parole board rejected his third request for parole, saying he had acted “in an especially cruel or callous manner” and had “a very trivial” motive to kill. The parole board “may protect public safety in each discrete case by considering the dangerous implications of a life-maximum prisoner’s crime individually,” Justice Marvin Baxter wrote for the majority. In dissent, Justice Carlos Moreno said the ruling required “judicial rubber stamping” of parole-board decisions. “Failure to grant parole where parole is due wastes human lives, not to mention considerable tax dollars,” he said.