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California Court of Appeal Grants Habeas Relief to Lifer Following Initial Board Appearance

In January 2012, in an unpublished opinion, the California Court of Appeal granted habeas relief to a life prisoner who challenged the decision of the Board of Parole Hearings to deny him parole at his initial parole consideration hearing two years earlier.

James Wing was 41 years old in 1995, when a jury convicted him of second degree murder following the shooting death of a man with whom he had had a verbal altercation. A forensic scientist testified at Wing's trial that the evidence surrounding the shooting was consistent with an unintentional discharge of the gun.

The Board found Wing unsuitable for parole at his initial parole consideration hearing in January 2010 based on its belief that Wing lacked insight into his offense, which it characterized as "very reckless."

The Court of Appeal found that, by itself, the life crime, committed 15 years prior to the 2010 suitability hearing, had little probative value with respect to Wing's current dangerousness to society. Nor could it find any support in the record for the Board's conclusion that Wing lacked insight into his offense. Accordingly, it vacated the Board's denial of parole and directed the Board to conduct a new parole consideration hearing.

Readers should note that Wing was undisputedly a model prisoner; through self-help and therapy programs, he had addressed the anger issues that led to his offense; he had no prior criminal record; he had viable parole plans and a stable social history; he expressed remorse and accepted full responsibility for his offense; and the psychological evaluator assessed him to present a low risk for future violence. Under the circumstances, there was simply no evidence to support a finding of parole unsuitability. See: In re Wing, Case No. D059403, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Div. One (2012).

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Related legal case

In re Wing