Marsy’s Law Applies to Lifers – Thank you Steve Ipsen

Co-author of Marsy's Law changes the California parole process.

Steve Ipsen co-author of Marsy’s Law changes the California parole process.

When I asked Steve Ipsen about this article and what it all meant.  He said, “Marcella Leach had a heart attack during a parole hearing for the possible release of her daughter’s brutal murder.  She had been to the hearings repeatedly for his release and he little chance of being paroled.  Enough was enough.  The system was broken, expensive and a I wanted to fix it.”  By having presumptive 15 year denials, the process is designed to be fair to victims, reduce the expense to the state, and be fair to the murderer who, in many cases, has little chance of being paroled.

Marsy’s Law Applies to Lifers – California District Attorney’s Association Blogs

Marsy’s law has reshaped victim’s rights in California. Since its inception in 2008, it has expanded victims’ rights in parole proceedings for prisoners sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole by guaranteeing victims the right to be notified of parole hearings and to present information to the Board of Parole Hearings. It also amended Penal Code section 3041.5 to increase the time period between parole hearings, while still allowing for earlier hearings if a change in circumstances or new information subsequently established that there is a reasonable probability a prisoner is suitable for parole.

On March 4, 2013, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled in In re Vicks that the changes made to the parole hearing schedule under Marsy’s Law apply to all inmates already serving life sentences—not just those sentenced after the law went into effect. This ruling overturned the decisions of two lower courts, which agreed with Vicks. Despite speculation that increasing the time between parole hearings would result in a longer sentence, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, writing for the court, asserted in Vicks that, “[a]lthough multiple changes to the parole scheme contributed to longer periods between hearings, the changes have no cumulative effect that would create a significant risk of prolonged incarceration.”

Before Marsy’s Law, the maximum length between parole hearings was five years for murder and two years for all other convictions. Regardless of the changes to the Penal Code, inmates are still allowed to petition for earlier parole dates and the eligibility requirements for parole remain the same. However, parole board commissioners now have the option to defer parole from anywhere from three to 15 years.

The decision to include lifers sentenced before Marsy’s Law took effect, has two potential benefits worth noting. First, increasing the duration of time between parole hearings that often result in a denial, will likely reduce costs to the state, which has already been struggling to maintain a balanced budget.  But more importantly, the affirmation to uniformly apply Marsy’s Law to lifers and impose minimum lengths of up to 15 years between hearings could spare victims the trauma associated with confronting their attackers in more frequent parole hearings, holding true to the original intent of Marsy’s Law.

 

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