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California Lifer Claims Parole

Chair Fisher Is Biased

While most of California's lifers face a mere 99% chance of being denied parole, murderer Linda Ricchio's odds appear far worse. Her victim, Ronald Ruse, was the brother of newly appointed (and confirmed) Board of Prison Terms (BPT) Commissioner Susan Fisher. Fisher, it turns out, is more than a grieving next-of kin, she is also an active member and leader of victims' rights/revenge groups. Fisher has most recently (since 1999) been Director of the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau, including being a board member for seven years. She belonged to two other victims groups, and was President of Citizens for Law and Order since 2000. The Doris Tate Crime Victim's Bureau receives the bulk of its funding from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the union that represents prison guards in California.

Ricchio' s attorney, Rich Pfeiffer, has filed papers to remove Ricchio's hearing to superior court. While, of course, Fisher could never sit on Ricchio's parole panel, the concern remains that her influence may pervade the whole BPT. Pfeiffer believes that Fisher's appointment to the BPT is simply a mission to avenge her brother's murder. Pfeiffer notes that the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau website features a lengthy summary of Ricchio's crime and urges members to contact the BPT and demand she be kept behind bars. Indeed, the Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau often sends its members to BPT lifer hearings to plead the case of victims not in attendance. Ricchio's initial parole hearing was postponed and is now awaiting a court hearing. Although Fisher could technically appear in the role of victim's family, it is expected that other family members will assume that task.

BPT attorney Deborah Bain stated there is no evidence that Ms. Fisher has previously advocated her position" on the Ricchio case, and no evidence that the BPT will not discharge its duties ... in a fair manner.
Prison Law Office attorney Donald Specter opined, Often, I think people in victims' rights organizations tend to make judgments based upon a particular offense, rather than assessing each case on its individual merits as the law requires .... That's the concern."

On November 1, 2005, governor Schwarzenegger appointed Fisher chair of the Baord of Parole Hearings despite having served on the Board as a commissioner only since July, 2005. The position pays $99,693 per year and Fisher is a Republican.

Source: Los Angeles Times.

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