THANK GOODNESS. The California Supreme Court held today in In re Palmer (S256149) that a lifer’s sentence, while not cruel and unusual when imposed, can become cruel and unusual if the board continues to deny parole. Here, the petitioner was denied parole 10 times, w/a life sentence for a non-homicide crime committed as a juvenile. The First District held that he was entitled to release and to be entirely discharged from parole. (Note, while his habeas petition was pending parole granted him release.) The California Supreme Court technically reversed on the tangential issue about his discharge from parole. Although, they did say someone could argue that they should also be discharged from parole because that, too, had become cruel and unusual. Most importantly, though, the Supremes agreed that a lifer may show that his sentence has become cruel and unusual if the board is all: denied, denied, denied, denied, denied, denied, denied, denied, denied, denied.
So congrats Mr. Palmer and hoping this helps my lifer clients.
“We agree with the Court of Appeal that habeas corpus
relief is available to inmates whose continued incarceration has
become constitutionally excessive, but who have been denied
release by the Board. To the extent Palmer’s continued
incarceration at some point became constitutionally excessive,
though, that alone did not justify ending his parole under the
current statutory scheme. We therefore reverse the judgment
of the Court of Appeal.”