News

February, 2015

Rumors:

(1) It has come to my attention there is a vicious rumor circulating throughout the prison system that I have been blackballed by the parole boards in every region and that anyone who hires me will automatically be denied parole. FALSE: I am in good standing with all the parole boards and their members and continue to be heard by them arguing in my clients’ behalf, as I have for over 20-years successfully. Last week alone, every client I argued for was granted parole. So, I reiterate, there is no truth to this rumor.

(2) President Barack Obama and Congress will be working to reduce the prison population. FALSE: While there is ongoing discussions in Washington regarding criminal justice reform, there have been no bills proposed as of the date of this letter. Also, any reform on the federal level will only affect federal prisons.

(3) Should a close relative die you can petition the Parole Board for a special review of your previous denial. FALSE: Should a death occur, an inmate can petition the Warden for a furlough to attend the funeral.

(4) Any rumor starting with the Texas Legislature has changed the law… FALSE: No laws have been passed by the Legislature in the two weeks the Legislature has been in session beginning January 2015.

New Laws:

A very scarey decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in United States of America v. Marvin Reese came out January 5, 2015. During a hearing to revoke Mr. Reese’s supervised release (federal probation), the question of whether the drugs found on him were illegal drugs was elicited by the United States Attorney through the testimony of a police officer instead of the lab technician who performed the test. The Court states: We begin with the proposition that the revocation of parole is not part of a criminal prosecution and thus the full panoply of rights due a defendant in a criminal proceeding does not apply to parole revocations. Should this decision remain, a police officer could testify in a state parole revocation hearing that the substance found on a parolee was an illegal substance or the officer could testify the girlfriend told the officer the parolee hit or threatened to harm her and the Parole Board could accept this as evidence of a parole violation. The only saving fact is an implied understanding that if Mr. Reese had issued a subpoena and objected to the testimony at the hearing, then there may have been a different outcome. That is why I always issue subpoenas and object at parole revocation hearings to protect my client. I have been fortunate to have not lost a parole revocation at a revocation hearing in 7-8 years.

 

 

PAROLE DECISIONS BY BOARD MEMBERS AND COMMISSIONERS FOR THE YEAR 2014

PAROLE BOARD BOARD MEMBER APPROVAL RATE DENIAL RATE
Amarillo James LaFavers 36.1% 63.9%
Amarillo Marsha Moberley 35.0% 65.0%
Amarillo Charles A. Shipman 29.4% 70.6%
Angleton Cynthia Tauss 39.7% 60.3%
Angleton Lynn Ruzicka 40.7% 59.3%
Austin Troy Fox 44.6% 55.4%
Austin Elvis Hightower 44.3% 55.7%
Gatesville David Gutierrez 38.5% 61.5%
Gatesville Lee Ann Eck-Massingill 30.7% 69.3%
Gatesville Roel Tejada 31.0% 69.0%
Huntsville Rissie Owens 88.7% 11.3%
Huntsville Fred Rangel 42.8% 57.2%
Huntsville Roy A. (Tony) Garcia 36.7% 63.3%
Palestine Michelle Skyrme 32.8% 67.2%
Palestine James Paul Kiel, Jr. 30.0% 70.0%
Palestine James A. Hensarling 33.4% 66.6%
San Antonio Juanita Gonzalez 37.8% 62.2%
San Antonio Charles C. Speier 34.3% 65.7%
San Antonio Anthony Ramirez 28.8% 71.2%
AVERAGE TOTAL   33.9% 66.1%

 

The methodology I used in calculating the total average was to take out the percentage for Rissie Owens because as head of the Parole Board she only voted on approximately 450 cases in the year to date versus most Parole Board Members who voted in excess of 3500 cases year to date. I believe the probability of any inmate of being voted on by Ms. Owens would be a statistical anomaly and the greater probability of a vote by the other members would be more probable.

Of Interest :

I received a phone call from Juanita Gonzalez last week informing me she will be retiring from the San Antonio Parole Board as soon as the Governor appoints an individual to take her place. I will miss arguing cases to her. While she may not have always agreed with my assessment of why my client deserved parole, she always listened and asked very informed questions about my client. That type of individual is always needed on the parole board. This will now make three appointments the new Governor will have to make to fill the existing vacancies at the Angleton Board, Huntsville Board and now Juanita Gonzalez’s position at San Antonio Board.

(1) Mr. Rangel who was a Parole Board Commissioner at the Angleton Board has been moved to the Huntsville Board to assist Mr. Garcia in voting parole cases.

(2) For those inmates with Hepatitis C, there has been a major breakthrough in medicine with the release of Sovaldi from Gilead Sciences Company. This drug can cure Hepatitis C within weeks or months of taking the pill once a day for up to 12-weeks. The bad news is it costs $1,000.00 per pill for a total cost of curing the disease of approximately $84,000.00 for the treatment. Prisons across the country will be facing a dilemma. Treating these inmates could make a big dent in the Hepatitis C epidemic, but finding the money to do it will be another story.

(3) The sole Judge Michael Seiler who hears civil commitment of sex-offenders has come under fire for remarks he made about the offenders who face him in court as psychopaths or once suggesting treating the sex-offender with castration from the neck up. To date there have been 16 Motion to Recuse Judge Seiler from hearing these types of cases and 8 have been granted by three different judges. In at least seven cases, appellate courts have sided with the defense attorney and reversed Judge Seiler’s decision to civilly commit defendants.

(4) For the first time, Texas Appellate courts have overturned the convictions of two teenagers who were certified by the juvenile courts to be an adult. They were subsequently tried as adults and sent to TDCJ. For over a quarter century, not a single juvenile certification had been successfully challenged until January of this year. Based on the opinions in the two cases, the Appellate courts will now require sufficient evidence as to why the youth in question should stand trial as an adult.

Attorneys in Office:

Greg Tsioros is a criminal defense attorney who handles all forms of criminal defense cases and Johnny P. Papantonakis is a criminal defense attorney who handles cases in both federal and state courts and is fluent in Spanish. They are both now accepting parole cases after having worked with me to understand the complexity of parole in Texas. Johnny will be assisting me in representing inmates as well as family members who speak Spanish and need help convincing the Board to release there loved one to parole.

Parole Representation:

I continue to be contacted by family members requesting my help after having spent their hard earned money on parole representation by other attorneys and receiving a meager 3-page letter begging the Board to release the inmate with a few support letters attached and told that is a parole package. Unfortunately, if that is what people have fallen prey to for around $2,000.00, then money has been wasted as it will have very little if any impact on the Board’s decision. If an inmate receives parole after such a package has been filed, it is most likely the inmate would have been released without the loss of $2,000.00 or the waste of paper the so-called Parole Package was written on. The simple fact is, the Parole Board is looking for evidence an inmate deserves to be released. The only way I know how to get this type of evidence is to gather information and documentation from the various agencies, the inmate, the inmate’s family and friends, and others, review and evaluate that information, and attempt to find mitigating proof the crime my client was charged with was not as bad as the Parole Members may have perceived when they read the IPO summary, or that my client is no longer the same person who committed the act and was sent to prison. To prepare an informative Parole Package (usually some 30 or 40 pages long) and then prepare a persuasive argument to the Parole Board, I have to clearly reflect that my client has gotten his/her life together so the Parole Board feels sure he/she will not receive a telephone call from some reporter demanding to know why that inmate was released instead of made to serve out the entire sentence because now the released inmate has committed a horrible new crime. Remember, the easy answer for the Board is to say NO to a request for parole, instead of granting it. If you really believe a 3-page parole package will convince the Board to grant you parole, simply prepare it yourself instead of wasting money on nonproductive representation.

 


 

 

May, 2014

Parole system and TDCJ update:

For decades, there have been 18 Parole Board Members in the state of Texas.  In my last letter I notified my clients that the Legislature had appropriated funds for a new Parole Board Office in Austin, Texas.  I verified this during a discussion with Ms. Rissie Owens who is the Presiding Officer of the Parole Board.  It took some time for the Governor to appoint the two new commissioners, but as of the date of this letter there is a new Parole Board office in Austin consisting of Rissie Owens, Troy G. Fox and Elvis Hightower.  Troy G. Fox was previously a commissioner at the Gatesville Board. His education consists of a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Corrections from Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas.

His background consists of over 35-years experience in corrections and criminal justice field in positions ranging from probation officer to various management positions with TDCJ-Parole Division and the Board of Pardons and Paroles.  Mr. Elvis Hightower was also relocated from the Gatesville Board to the new Austin Board Office. His education consists of a Bachelors Degree from Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas. His background consists of 11-years experience as a prison warden.

The Governor then appointed two new Parole Board Commissioners to the Gatesville Board:  Ms. Lee Ann Eck-Massingill, who has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Corrections and a Minor in Psychology from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Her background consists of 25-years in the criminal justice arena.  Also appointed to the Gatesville Board is Mr. Roel Tejada who has a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Justice Administration from St. Mary’s University, San Antonio, Texas. His background consists of criminal justice experience in both juvenile and adult systems with an emphasis on Substance Abuse, Special Needs and Domestic Violence.

Due to the creation of the new Austin Parole Board Office, there will probably be a realignment of the various regions and units with some being placed under the new board and other units reassigned to other board offices.  As of the date of this letter, there is no official designation as to what units will be placed under the Austin Parole Board. I anticipate the realignment will occur mainly from those units under the San Antonio Parole Board, Gatesville Parole Board, possibly the Huntsville Parole Board and maybe a few units from the Angleton Parole Board; however, there could be a complete realignment throughout the entire system.  Once I have received an official chart indicating what units will be placed under what parole boards I will post it on my website and it will probably be in my next letter that will go out sometime this summer.  If you are interested in knowing what units will be voted by what parole board, I suggest you periodically check my web page. Once I have placed this information on my web page it can printed out and sent to any inmate so he/she can be updated as to what parole board will be assigned to what units.

The overall release rate has not changed drastically since my last letter.  As of March 2014 the overall release rate is 35.67% which means that approximately 65% of inmates are being denied parole at present. The new Parole Board Members’ voting records have not been calculated as of the posted March 2014 statistics I recently received.  I anticipate it will be approximately 3 or 4 months before there is any new statistical information regarding how the new Parole Board Members are voting.  Upon receiving this information it will also be placed on my web page and be in my next letter. Generally, when a new Parole Board Member begins voting, they have a tendency to vote very conservatively. Should that occur, it will probably affect the Gatesville Board’s statistics since Mr. Fox and Mr. Hightower were there for a number of years.