Tuesday, November 15, 2005
C.A. Blocks Release on Parole of Long Beach Killer
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Long Beach man who bludgeoned his housemate with a baseball bat is not entitled to parole, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday, overturning a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s order for his release.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to reverse the Board of Prison Terms and keep Arbbie M. Hodge behind bars should not have been overturned under the “extremely deferential” standard governing judicial review of the chief executive’s parole decisions, Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein wrote in an unpublished opinion for Div. Three.
Hodge has served 26 years of a 16-year-to-life term for the murder of Thurmond Allen outside the home that Hodge and his girlfriend were sharing with Claire Hoff while her boyfriend—a friend of Hodge—was in jail.
The Board of Prison Terms found that Hodge, a gambler and a thief who once owned an Ohio pool hall he bought with gambling winnings but showed no history of gainful employment, was not a danger to the public and found him suitable for release, with the expectation he would live at a residential facility for persons with substance abuse histories.
The board had previously rejected Hodge for parole 11 times.
Testimony in Hodge’s criminal case showed that he became involved in a fight between his girlfriend, Barbara Hines, and Hoff. Hines allegedly attacked Hoff with a lamp and a piece of glass during an early morning argument, before all three of them went out into the street.
Encountering Allen, according to the testimony, Hodge—who suspected that Hoff had been cheating on her boyfriend—said to Hoff “[T]his is your new man? Let’s see if he is enough for this.”
Hoff told officers she thought Hodge was going to attack her, but he struck Allen—who had dropped off marijuana at the house, which Hoff was apparently going to sell in order to get her boyfriend out of jail—twice in the head with the bat, knocking him to the ground.
Hodge claimed that he told the two women to take their fight into the street, but became alarmed after Allen attempted to intervene and swung a picture frame at Hines. Hodge said that he approached the scene, and that Allen swung the picture frame at him.
In his trial testimony, Hodge said he took the frame and struck Allen with it, denying having hit him with a bat. In 1988, however, Hodge admitted to parole authorities that he had hit the victim with the bat, which was never found.
Hodge and Hines were arrested in San Diego several weeks after the attack, after being caught in an attempt to steal cigarettes from a store.
In concluding that Hodge—who admitted to a 10-year-long heroin dependency preceding his incarceration—was suitable for parole, the board relied on evidence that he had a good record in prison, earned his high school equivalency diploma in prison, and completed training for a job in the dry cleaning industry. He expressed remorse for the killing was found to be “highly unlikely to re-offend,” based on his age and maturity and participation in substance abuse programs and other self-help programs.
In February of last year, however, the governor reversed the board, citing the brutal nature of the crime, which was committed after Hodge absconded from burglary probation in Ohio; his attempt to minimize the degree of his culpability by claiming he thought Allen was going to harm Hines, even though the only weapon he had was the narrow picture frame; his lack of concrete employment plans, his long history of crime, drug abuse, and sustained unemployment; and the opposition of police and prosecutors.
“Without a way to provide for himself, the odds that he will slip back into the only lifestyle he knows outside of prison ñ crime, drugs and gambling ñ are increased,” Schwarzenegger wrote.
While Hodge “should be proud of his progress” since beginning his prison term, the governor went on to say, “I am not satisfied that this 63-year-old man has demonstrated that his institutional gains are sufficiently established to assure that his success within prison will transfer outside of prison.”
Superior Court Judge David Wesley, however, granted Hodge’s petition for writ of habeas corpus. Ruling that the governor’s decision lacked evidentiary support, Wesley cited the lack of testimony that the murder was especially heinous, the defendant’s lack of a prior record of violence, the remoteness in time of his drug history, the fact that he had plans for life after prison, and his statements of remorse for the crime.
But Klein, writing for the Court of Appeal, cited In re Rosenkrantz (2002) 29 Cal.4th 616. That decision holds that the governor’s veto of a parole suitability determination must be upheld if it is supported by “some evidence” in the record of the proceedings before the board.
The governor’s power to reverse the parole board is based on Proposition 89, a 1988 measure that amended the California Constitution. It requires the governor to base his decision solely on a review of the same evidence that was presented to the board.
Klein said the governor was within his rights to conclude that “Hodge demonstrated callous disregard for human suffering by failing to stop the fight between Hines and Hoff, and directing the combatants to continue the fight in the front yard, despite Hoff’s visible injuries,” then escalating the situation by attacking Allen with the baseball bat.
The Supreme Court, Klein noted, recently held that infliction of multiple blows to the head may render a murder particularly egregious and constitute a justification for denial of parole once the inmate become eligible.
There was also, the presiding justice went on to say, “some evidence” to support the governor’s conclusion that Hodge’s unstable life history made him a parole risk.
She noted that Hodge had been committing crimes since the age of 13, had a long history of parole and probation violations, had numerous children whom he had not been in contact with, lacked a permanent address for a long time prior to the murder, and had been described as a sociopath by a parole evaluator who expressed fear that he would go back to drugs and crime if released.
Attorneys on appeal were Rowan K. Klein for Hodge and Deputy Attorneys General Michelle Des Jardins and Jane Catherine Malich for the state.
The case is In re Hodge, B180414.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company