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Goodall v. Billingsley

United States District Court, Second Circuit

May 17, 2013

TERRY BILLINGSLEY, Warden, Federal Correctional Institution Otisville, and THE UNITED STATES PAROLE COMMISSION, Respondents.


DEBRA FREEMAN, Magistrate Judge.

Pro se petitioner Carlos Goodall ("Petitioner") seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, following the decision of the United States Parole Commission (the "Commission") to deny him parole at his initial parole hearing and postpone his rehearing date for 36 months. ( See Petition Challenging Decision to Deny Parole Pursuant To 28 U.S.C. § 2241, filed July 26, 2011 ("Pet.") (Dkt. 2).) Petitioner is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York ("FCI Otisville"), where he is serving a sentence of 15 years to life imprisonment, following his plea of guilty to one count of manslaughter while alined and one count of carrying a pistol without a license. ( See id. at 1-2; Declaration of Johanna E. Markind, Esq., dated Dec. 22, 2011 ("Markind Decl.") (Dkt. 11), Ex. A (Sentence Monitoring Computation Data, dated Mar. 25, 2010) ("Sentence Data"), at 1-2.)

Petitioner raises two claims in this action. First, he claims that the Commission abused its discretion in a number of ways, including by allegedly "double counting" the seriousness of Petitioner's offense, by considering it at more than one stage of its parole evaluation; by erroneously considering institutional infractions that had occurred more than three years prior to Petitioner's parole hearing; and by improperly postponing his parole rehearing date.[1] ( Id. at 3-5.) Second, Petitioner claims that these errors violated his constitutional right to due process. (Id.) For the reasons set forth below, I recommend that the Petition be dismissed.


A. Factual Background

1. Criminal Offense

Petitioner's principal underlying offense was the killing of his uncle, Fabian Baker ("Baker"). ( See Markind Decl., Ex. F (Hearing Summary, dated May 17, 2010) ("Hearing Summary"), at 2.) On June 14, 1995, at approximately 6:30 a.m., Baker's body was found burned beyond recognition in a New Jersey field. ( Id. Ex. E (D.C. Board of Parole Guideline Prehearing Assessment, dated Mar. 25, 2010) ("Prehearing Assessment"), at 1.) In statements made to the Commission, Petitioner explained that he had been involved in transporting narcotics from New York to a distributor in Washington, D.C. ( Id. Ex. F (Hearing Summary, dated May 17, 2010) ("Hearing Summary"), at 2.) Petitioner stated that the distributor had then provided Baker with narcotics to sell, but, according to Petitioner, Baker proceeded to use the narcotics himself, on the assumption that Petitioner would later pay for them. ( See id. )

Petitioner stated that he visited Baker's house in Washington, D.C., on June 13, 1995. ( See Prehearing Assessment, at 1.) According to Petitioner, he and Baker "got to arguing over the money [Baker] owed, " which "turned into a fight." ( Id. ) Petitioner recounted that, during the fight, a gun he was carrying "came out" and "[i]t went off and got [Baker] on the side" of Baker's head. ( Id. ) Baker died from a single gunshot wound to the head. ( Id. ) After shooting Baker, Petitioner "tried to cover up what happened" by wrapping up the body, driving it to New Jersey, and setting it on fire in a field. ( Id. )

In 1996, in the District of Columbia Superior Court, Petitioner was indicted for manslaughter while armed, and for carrying a pistol without a license. ( See Pet., at 1-2.) Following a plea of guilty, Petitioner was sentenced on May 4, 1998, to a term of imprisonment of 15 years to life. ( See id. ; see also Sentence Data, at 1-2.)

2. Parole History

Petitioner became eligible for parole on December 21, 2010. ( See Sentence Data, at 3.) On January 5, 2010, Petitioner formally applied for parole. ( See Markind Decl., Ex. B (Notice of Hearing Parole Application Representative and Disclosure Request, dated January 5, 2010).) On March 25, 2010, Petitioner appeared before Hearing Examiner Mark A. Tanner ("Tanner") for a Prehearing Assessment. ( See Prehearing Assessment.) The assessment was conducted pursuant to actuarial guidelines promulgated by the D.C. Board of Parole in 1987.[2]

Under the guidelines, Tanner determined that Petitioner had a "Salient Factor Score" ("SFS") of 7 (indicating that Petitioner presented a "[flair" parole risk), and an "Initial Point Assignment Grid Score" of 1 (indicating that "[p]arole should be granted with [a] high level of supervision required"). ( Id. at 2-4.) Tanner, however, identified two factors that could potentially weigh against adhering to the guidelines recommendation to grant parole. ( See id. at 4.) First, Tanner determined that Petitioner would need additional programming, specifically in anger-management and victim-empathy programs, to remain crime-free in the community. ( See id.; Hearing Summary, at 4.) Second, Tanner stated that Petitioner's offense, which involved transporting Baker's body to New Jersey and setting it on fire, showed "unusual cruelty to the victim." (Pre-Hearing Assessment, at 4.)

Petitioner appeared again before Tanner on April 27, 2010, for his parole hearing. ( See Hearing Summary, at 1.) In the hearing summary, dated May 17, 2010, Tanner noted that, during Petitioner's incarceration, Petitioner had admitted to possessing marijuana in 2002 and to threatening a chaplin with bodily harm in 2003. ( Id. at 2-3.) Tanner, however, determined that neither of these incidents of "serious negative institutional behavior" should factor into Petitioner's Total Point Score because the applicable guidelines only permitted consideration of infractions that had occurred within the prior three years. ( Id. at 3.)

Despite determining that Petitioner had a Total Point Score of 1, which indicated that parole should be granted, Tanner recommended that the Commission deny parole. ( Id. at 3-4.) In a Point Assignment Grid Worksheet accompanying the Hearing Summary, Tanner circled four factors that militated against the grant of parole: (1) that Petitioner needed programming to remain crime-free in the community; (2) that Petitioner's offense involved unusual cruelty to the victim; (3) that Petitioner had engaged in serious negative institutional behavior; and (4) "Other." (Markind Decl., D.C. Board of Parole Initial/Rehearing Parole Consideration Adult Offenders (Point Assignment Grid) ("Point Assignment Grid") (attached to Ex. F), at 5.) Tanner also provided the following written statement of the reasons for his recommendation:

Your offense involved unusual cruelty to the victim which caused undue duress on the victim's family because you not only killed your uncle, you wrapped his body in a blanket and transported him to an adjacent State. After you found a vacant lot, you dumped his body and lit the body on fire causing recognition of the body to be very difficult. Finally, while confined in the Bureau of Prisons, you had two incidents of negative institutional behavior which involved Threatening a Chaplin with Bodily Hann and Possession of Drugs while confined in the institution. The Commission believes that additional programming is warranted to reduce your risk of recidivism including victim impact/empathy classes.

(Hearing Summary, at 4.) For the same reasons, Tanner recommended that the Commission depart from the guidelines recommendation that Petitioner receive a rehearing in 12 months, suggesting instead that the Commission postpone Petitioner's parole rehearing for 36 months. ( Id. at 3-4.)

By non-appealable Notice of Action dated July 2, 2010, the Commission denied Petitioner's application for parole and postponed his rehearing for 36 months, as Tanner had recommended.[3] ( See Markind Decl., Ex. C (Notice of Action, dated July 2, 2010) ("Notice of Action").) The Commission stated that Petitioner was "a more serious parole risk than shown by" Petitioner's point score, and adopted Tanner's explanation verbatim. ( Id. )

B. Procedural History

Petitioner filed his habeas Petition in this Court[4] on July 26, 2011.[5] In his Petition, Petitioner first argues that the Commission engaged in impermissible double-counting by considering the "seriousness of [Petitioner's] offense" to determine his SFS and again to determine whether parole should then be recommended. (Pet., at 3-4.) Second, Petitioner claims that the Commission similarly engaged in impermissible double-counting in postponing his rehearing ( id. at 4), and that the 36 month postponement violated his statutory right to a rehearing within two years ( id. at 4-5). Petitioner also claims that the Commission impermissibly cited his negative institutional behavior as a factor weighing against the guidelines recommendation that parole be granted. ( Id. at 5.) Finally, Petitioner claims that the Commission's errors, taken in the aggregate, amounted to a violation of his constitutional right to due process. ( Id. at 3-5.)

On December 23, 2011, Respondents filed an opposition to the Petition. ( See Respondents' Return and Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Petition For Writ Of Habeas Corpus, dated Dec. 23, 2011 ("Resp. Mem.") (Dkt. 10).) On January 26, 2012, Petitioner filed a reply. (Dkt. 12.)



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