Ohio Supreme Court Holds That Longer Second Continuance on Parole Eligibility Is Not Proof of Punitive Action
by David Reutter
The Ohio Supreme Court held that an Ohio prisoner's mandamus, alleging that the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRS) failed to comply with its clear legal duty to properly assess his parole eligibility, lacked merit.
In 1995, Harold Stith was sentenced to serve 22 years to life in an Ohio prison. In 2010, the Adult Parole Authority (APA) conducted its first parole review and imposed a 29-month continuance of Stith's sentence. In 2013, the second hearing ended with a 59-month continuance. In 2015, Stith filed a writ of mandamus against the ODRS. He argued that the parole board failed to carry out its clear legal duty to provide him fair and meaningful consideration for parole.
In 2016, the Tenth District Court of Appeals dismissed the writ because Stith failed to state a claim for relief. The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal.
Stith argued that the 59-month continuance after the initial 29-month continuance was not "ethical, fair and/or just" but punitive. The Supreme Court held that there is no clear legal duty or right concerning the timing of parole hearing. Such timing is discretionary, and the fact that a second continuance was longer than the first is not proof of punitive or illegal procedures. The claim lacked merit.
Stith also alleged that the APA had a duty in the second parole hearing to consider only a prisoner's rehabilitative action. He asserted that the board could not consider the seriousness of his crime or the likelihood that he would commit more crimes. The Supreme Court noted that Ohio statutes "expressly authorized" the board to review any matters addressing his fitness for release. This would include the seriousness of the crime. There was no clear legal duty or right involved.
Stith also alleged that the board had a clear legal duty to reduce his sentence by awarding time off for good behavior. The Court held that the statute relied on does not reduce the "court-imposed sentence," but only allows earlier parole eligibility, and once a parole hearing has been held, the good-time rules no longer apply. The board has discretion to reduce the sentence based on participation in a prison program, but the administrative codes and statutes do not "create a factor that the parole board must weigh" in parole consideration. No mandamus action is available.
Stith also argued that where the negative factors were weighed in his first hearing, he had a right to exclude them from his second hearing. Again, there was no legal authority presented to show this was a clear legal right or duty. Where all claims lacked merit, the Supreme Court held that Stith failed to show any clear legal rights or duties. The Court affirmed dismissal of the mandamus.
See State ex. rel. Stith v. Dept. of Rehab. & Corr., Slip opinion No. 2017, Ohio 7824, Ohio St.3d N.E.2d.
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Related legal case
State ex. rel. Stith v. Dept. of Rehab. & Corr
|Cite||Slip Opinion No. 2017, Ohio 7824, Ohio St.3d N.E.2d|