Monday, April 30, 2007
C.A. Upholds Veto of Parole for Woman in Kidnap-Murder Plot
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
A woman serving a 15-year-to-life prison sentence for second-degree murder failed to show the governor’s veto of her parole date was based on a misinterpretation of her commitment offense, the Sixth District Court of Appeal has ruled.
In an opinion filed March 28 and ordered published Thursday, the court upheld Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reversal of a May 2004 Board of Prison Terms decision granting parole to 48-year-old BranDee Tripp.
Tripp was convicted by guilty plea in 1981 for her role in the abduction and killing of then-10-year-old Tameron Carpenter, who was murdered at the behest of Tripp’s stepfather, William Record.
Solicited by Stepfather
In 1979, Record had been accused of molesting Carpenter and her 19-year-old sister, Betty Ann Maddocks, and offered to pay Tripp’s then-husband, Hilton Tripp, to kidnap and murder the siblings so they could not testify in the criminal case against him.
Hilton Tripp, 17 at the time, initially planned with his then-20-year-old wife and his friend Randy Cook to abduct and kill Maddocks. When their plan failed, however, they decided to shift their attention to Carpenter.
BranDee Tripp, who was a family friend of the girls, arranged to take the younger sister on a swimming trip on July 8, 1979. Before the scheduled outing, Tripp asked Carpenter to pick up some drinks at the store, and the girl complied, according to testimony.
Carpenter encountered Tripp’s husband and Cook at the store, and accepted their offer to drive her home. The pair drove the girl to a campsite where the Tripps were then living, took her into the Tripps’ tent, tide her up, and strangled her to death using a cord from the tent.
They buried her in a grave they had dug near the tent.
Tripp denied knowledge of the victim’s whereabouts when questioned by police, but was arrested after her husband confessed his involvement in the crime and led officers to the girl’s body. Cook later surrendered to the authorities and pled guilty to first-degree murder, for which he was sentenced 25 to years to life in prison.
First Parole Hearing
Tripp’s husband was also issued a 25-years-to-life sentence after being convicted by a jury of first-degree murder and conspiracy to murder. After Tripp testified against her stepfather, he was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
In November 2002, over 20 years into BranDee Tripp’s prison sentence, the Board of Prison Terms held a hearing and found her suitable for parole. The decision, however, was vetoed by then-Gov. Gray Davis in April 2003.
The board held another hearing in May 2004 and again determined Tripp was entitled to a parole date. Facts underlying its suitability determination included her achievement of a clean discipline record for 16 years, completion of vocational certification programs, participation in self-help and therapy programs, and favorable mental health evaluations.
Schwarzenegger reversed the board, saying that Tripp “helped plan the kidnap and murder” of a 10-year-old, and observing that she did so for money and to help an accused child molester by eliminating the girl as a witness, the governor concluded her crime demonstrated “exceptional depravity and an utterly callous disregard for human life and suffering.”
Reviewing Tripp’s statements at the parole hearing and documents before the board, Schwarzenegger said he disbelieved her claim that she did not intend for Carpenter to be killed.
Although she told the board that she did not know the girl’s life would be taken,
the governor observed, she also admitted to suggesting various ways to kill her. Schwarzenegger also a considered a 1999 mental-health evaluation in which Tripp said that she refused to be involved in Maddocks’ abduction but was willing to help lure her outside to be kidnapped, and that she was agreeable to planning a way for Carpenter to be kidnapped.
On review, the Court of Appeal applied the “extremely deferential” standard established by In re Rosenkrantz (2002) 29 Cal.4th 616—in which the state Supreme Court held that a governor’s parole suitability decision need be supported only by “some evidence” in the record before the parole board.
Justice Wendy Clark Duffy, writing for the panel, said Tripp’s statements before the board were “reasonably susceptible” to the governor’s interpretation.
“Petitioner’s statements at the parole hearing fall short of a claim that she told her husband in no uncertain terms that she opposed killing [Carpenter],” the justice wrote.
She rejected Tripp’s argument that denying her parole because of her commitment offense violated her due process rights.
Saying the governor properly considered other relevant factors, Duffy concluded:
“Petitioner cites no factor as overlooked by the Governor. Her real disagreement is with the weight he attached in 2004 to her 1979 behavior. But the Governor was authorized to independently review the evidence before the Board that granted her a parole date. On the existing record, we cannot say that due process required the Governor to strike a different balance.”
Justices Nathan D. Mihara and Eugene M. Premo concurred in the opinion.
The case is In re Tripp, 07 S.O.S. 2226.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company