Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, July 29, 2010


Page 3


S.C. Declines to Review Ruling Denying Release for Paralyzed Rapist


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The California Supreme Court yesterday declined to review a lower court’s ruling that the state parole board’s error in denying a paralyzed inmate’s compassionate release request was not a sufficient reason to order his release.

The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco, voted to deny a petition for review in Martinez v. Board of Parole Hearings, 183 Cal.App.4th 578. The Third District Court of Appeal in April overturned Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly’s order for the release of Steven C. Martinez.

Martinez has been incarcerated since 1998 for an attack on a woman whom he struck with his car, then drove to a secluded location where he sexually assaulted her as she remained incapacitated.

He was stabbed by a fellow inmate in February 2001 at Centinela State Prison. The knife lacerated his spinal cord, instantly rendering him a quadriplegic, with little ability to move and no control over bowel or bladder movements.

Statutory Provision

In February 2008, Martinez sought compassionate release under Penal Code Sec. 1170(e). The statute authorizes the release of an inmate who is terminally ill or who is permanently incapacitated and requires 24-hour care, unless the inmate is under sentence of death or life imprisonment without parole, or unless the inmate’s release would endanger public safety.

The chief medical officer and warden of Corcoran State Prison found that Martinez was qualified for release, but the secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation objected on the basis of Martinez’s “inappropriate, disrespectful, and verbally threatening behavior,” the seriousness of his crimes, and the fact that he had served only a small portion of his sentence of 157 years to life.

The board sided with the secretary and voted not to recommend release after hearing evidence of several incidents in which Martinez verbally abused prison employees, including use of profanity and racist terms.

Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland, writing for the Court of Appeal, said that the board must make findings and cannot consider matters outside the statutory criteria. But he opined that Connelly was wrong in his assessment of the record and his understanding of the scope of review.

Dissenting Opinion

Justice Harry Hull concurred, but Justice Richard Sims III argued in dissent that Connelly’s ruling should have been affirmed in its entirety because Martinez was not a danger to society within the meaning of the statute.

In other conference action, the justices:

•Denied review of an April ruling by the Fourth District Court of Appeal allowing an Orange County attorney to proceed with an action alleging that another firm needlessly added an extra signature on a settlement check to deceive a bank into negotiating it without his endorsement.

Div. Three held in Plummer v. Day/Eisenberg, LLP, 184 Cal.App.4th 38, that triable issues of fact existed as to whether Yorba Linda attorney Mark B. Plummer had a valid attorney’s lien on the funds, and ruled that a trial court erred in granting summary judgment for Newport Beach firm Day/Eisenberg in Plummer’s conversion action.

•Declined to review a ruling by this district’s Court of Appeal in May tossing out a suit against the Los Angeles Unified School District by a student who said she was repeatedly fondled by a fourth-grade elementary school teacher in Tujunga.

Justice Laurence D. Rubin wrote for Div. Eight in S.M. v. Los Angeles Unified School District, 184 Cal.App.4th 712, that “S.M.” could not maintain a negligent supervision claim against the district based on repeated abuse by former Plainview Elementary School teacher Michael McMurray because she waited too long to file a required tort claim with the district.

Pointing to the minor’s testimony that she knew at the time that what McMurray was doing was wrong, Rubin said the cause of action accrued no later than the end of the school year, not when the girl told her mother of the abuse upon McMurray’s arrest over a year later.

•Denied review of the First District Court of Appeal’s ruling in McGee v. Patel, A126262. Div. Four ruled in May that messages a San Mateo County man posted on his password-protected website about killing a co-worker his former girlfriend had begun dating constituted harassment, even though there was no evidence he intended the co-worker to see them.

The Court of Appeal said sufficient evidence supported a finding that the posts presented a “credible threat of violence,” concluding that it was “common sense” that the former girlfriend—who still had access to the website and was invited to read the posts—would share them.

•Declined to review a ruling by the First District that an action seeking to enjoin a trade organization from certifying beauty and personal care products as meeting the group’s standards as “organic” was not a strategic lawsuit against public participation. Div. Five in April ruled 2-1 in All One God Faith, Inc. v. Organic And Sustainable Industry Standards, Inc., 183 Cal.App.4th 1186, to allow a suit filed by the makers of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps against Organic And Sustainable Industry Standards Inc.—known as OASIS—to proceed.


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