A Supreme Court Justice has once again been angered by the actions of the New York state Parole Board. Judge Richard Mott ordered the Board of Parole In West v. New York Board of Parole, 3069-13, to grant a new hearing to inmate Michael West after he called the board’s decision to deny parole for the inmate a “boilerplate decision”, a decision so devoid of detail as to eliminate a “basis upon which the court could review” the denial of release.
West, who has been imprisoned for thirty-nine years for four counts of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree robbery, has been denied parole seven times. In his last parole denial, the board stated, “there is a reasonable probably that you would not live and remain at liberty without violating the law,” and that West “remains a threat to the community.”
Judge Mott stated that to assess the denial of parole, he needs a “detailed written explanation”, which the Board failed to provide. Mott added that Executive Law Section 259 requires that an inmate must be “informed in writing of the reasons for a denial of parole and such reasons shall be given in detail and not conclusory terms.” Judge Mott suggested the panel intentionally issues “terse, conclusory” determinations to frustrate judicial review.
According to Judge Mott, West, 66 years-old and in poor health suffering from arthritis and pulmonary edema, has been a model prisoner who was rated as having the lowest possible likelihood of returning to a life of crime by the Parole Board’s own risk assessment instrument. West, should he be granted parole, has already found a place to live at a Buffalo halfway house.
In its denial, the Parole Board refers to a “confidential file”, one not initially disclosed to the court or to West. Mott criticized the attorney general, Brian O’Donnell who represented the Board of Parole, for failing to provide the contents of the file, a statement by a nephew of one of the victims, to the court. “Failure to provide a court with all the documents considered by the Parole Board bespeaks Respondent’s view that the Board’s actions simply should be rubber stamped,” wrote Mott.
Judge Mott ordered the Parole Board to grant West a new hearing before a different panel and to issue a decision within two days of the hearing.
West v. New York Board of Parole, 3069-13 can be found here.