by Diana Block
On December 16th, 2002 in a striking confirmation of his gubernatorial power, the California Supreme Court upheld Governor Davis’ authority to veto parole for convicted murderers in the case of Robert Rosenkrantz. Although three lower courts found Rosenkrantz suitable for parole, the Supreme Court ruled that as long as Davis offered “some evidence” that Rosenkrantz’s original crime was brutal, Davis was justified in blocking the parole. The decision has widespread implications for thousands of prisoners, including dozens of battered women who are eligible for parole.
In 2002 alone Davis has vetoed parole for eleven battered women prisoners. He also reversed parole for Jeri Becker who had won widespread support from religious organizations and other civil liberties groups. Moreover, less than 1% of eligible prisoners with indeterminate sentences have received parole recommendations from the Parole Board. Up until now the courts have supported the right of many eligible prisoners to parole, disputing the judgment of the Parole Board. Although, the Supreme Court decision is a setback, court appeals remain an important option for prisoners who are denied parole year after year. After the decision, Herbert Rosenkrantz, Robert’s father, said that he and his family had not lost hope. He will be joined in his continuing effort by the many prisoners, family members, civil liberties and women’s organizations, religious groups, newspaper editorial boards and concerned citizens who have all raised their voices in the past year against California’s no-parole policy.