Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, December 30, 2011


Page 1


S.C. Upholds Denial of Parole to Elderly Wife-Killer




The California Supreme Court yesterday upheld the Board of Parole Hearings’ denial of parole to a convicted murderer whose bid for release has now been the subject of five appellate opinions.

The justices, in an opinion by Justice Carol Corrigan, said the Fourth District Court of Appeal was insufficiently deferential to the board when it ordered a new hearing for Richard Shaputis, who is now 75 years old and has served 24 years of a 17-year-to-life sentence for the second-degree murder of his wife.

The lower panel, in a 2-1 decision in November of last year, ordered the board to reconsider its 2009 decision not to release Shaputis, who has been in ill health for several years.

This is the second time the state Supreme Court has reversed a Court of Appeal decision that favored Shaputis. The previous ruling was based on evidence presented at a 2006 hearing.

That hearing resulted in a Court of Appeal ruling that required a new parole hearing. The board concluded at that hearing that because there was no new evidence to supplement the evidence that the court had found lacking, it was required to grant the inmate’s release.  

Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed that decision, and the Supreme Court sided with the governor.

Then-Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote, in In re Shaputis (2008) 44 Cal.4th 1241, that his history of domestic violence prior to the murder—he beat his wife two or three times a year during a 23-year marriage and had shot at her and threatened her with a knife about 18 months before he killed her—and his failure to take responsibility afterward supported the governor’s conclusion that he remained a danger to society.

The board had previously found him unsuitable for parole in 1997, 2002, and 2004.

While the Court of Appeal found on the basis of the 2008 hearing that Shaputis’ prison record remained “impeccable” and that all of his mental health evaluations supported the conclusion that he was no longer dangerous, Justice Carol Corrigan said yesterday, the court failed to consider other evidence in the record.

Applying the “some evidence” standard laid out in In re Rosenkrantz (2002) 29 Cal.4th 616, Corrigan said, the court should have upheld the board’s determination that Shaputis lacked insight into his prior criminal conduct and did not accept responsibility for the crime.

The justice noted that Shaputis refused to be examined by a prison psychologist, instead submitting a report by his own psychologist, which the Court of Appeal cited as evidence in his favor. He also refused to testify at the hearing.

While Shaputis was within his rights in doing so, Corrigan said, the board was entitled, under the circumstances, to consider past psychological reports and statements by Shaputis as evidence of current dangerousness.

Corrigan was joined by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Marvin Baxter, Ming Chin, and Joyce L. Kennard.

Justice Goodwin Liu concurred separately, but suggested that in reviewing a finding of unsuitability, the court is limited to the board’s or governor’s stated reasons and cannot consider evidence that was presented to the board but did not form part of its written decision.

Corrigan, in a footnote to the majority opinion, disagreed on that point. Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, concurring separately, said there was no reason to resolve that issue in this case.

The case was argued in the Supreme Court by Michael Evan Beckman of Santa Monica for Shaputis and Assistant Attorney General Julie L. Garland for the prosecution.

The case is In re Shaputis, 11 S.O.S. 7029.


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