Court to Review South Carolina Case Increasing Time Between Parole Hearings
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today agreed to decide whether states may increase the time between parole hearings for all their prison inmates.
The justices voted to review a ruling that said South Carolina’s lengthening the time between such hearings violated the rights of prisoners who committed their crimes before the challenged change in parole procedures.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 1986 South Carolina law that requires parole reconsideration hearings every two years instead of every 12 months as was previously required cannot be applied to inmates who committed their crimes before the 1986 law took effect.
The appeals court said applying the law to some inmates would represent an unconstitutional after-the-fact punishment.
The 1986 law had been challenged by Gary Lee Roller, convicted in 1983 of voluntary manslaughter and grand larceny.
Roller was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but was eligible for parole in 1990. The state parole board refused to parole him, however. He was told that he would receive another parole hearing in 1992.
Roller sued, contending that he was entitled to a new hearing in 1991. A federal judge ruled against him, but the 4th Circuit court reversed that ruling.
The appeals court noted that three of the four other federal appeals courts to consider the issue have ruled that such changes in parole procedures are invalid when applied to inmates whose crimes were committed before the changes.
″Our decision does not, of course, require or even suggest that Roller be paroled,″ the appeals court said. ″South Carolina need never parole him, so long as it considers the question every year.″
In the appeal acted on today, South Carolina Attorney General T. Travis Medlock argued that Roller should have been required to sue in state court before filing his federal lawsuit.
The case is Cavanaugh vs. Roller, 92-1510.