We generally include offense reports with the Statement of Facts that we send to the parole board after a defendant is sentenced. On occasion I will include a personal letter that provides more details about the defendant and his crimes, and also includes a plea to keep the defendant locked up as long as possible. Does anyone know if such letters actually do any good?
Parole board employees tell me that such explainations are greatly appreciated, because they have little to judge the crook by.
A parole board member told me that a letter written in response to a notice of possible parole is greatly appreciated. He indicated that prosecutors who simply write "oppose all paroles" across the notice sheet and mail it back are routinely ignored.
Personalized letters are rare in today's electronic-communication world. I have found it to be extremely worthwhile to draft personal protest letters for selected cases. The feedback I get from the parole board and victim services is positive.
Keep in mind that you can't assume the parole board is getting much in the way of detail on the case. What kind of paperwork do you imagine still exists for cases that were prosecuted 30 years ago and now coming up for parole? Not much. The prosecutor's letter may provide the parole board member (and his fellow nonappointed commissioners) with the best information available.
We also encourage victim and their families to register with TDCJ victim services to receive notice of parole consideration, so that they can also send in personal letters of protest.
I have always taken the position that anything we can do to help clarify the issues for the BPP should be done. In capital cases, especially, we aim to provide an accurate summary of the defendant, his crimes, and the due process afforded him. I think we would be failing in our duty as prosecutors to give up the opportunity to continue prosecuting our cases before the BPP, capital or not.
Echoing what JB said, in the two counties I have prosecuted in, I always seek out old hands who were there before me to get facts on "bad" offenders. I don't oppose all parole proceedings, only for those who I feel are "people we should be scared of" or those where the victim requests my assistance in doing so.
On old high profile cases, you might find a file archived away or not. In these cases, the old timers at the law enforcement agencies in your county or even old newspapermen might be your best source for reliable information. I have had to dig through archived newspaper records and old appellate briefs before to reconstruct what the facts were behind a conviction. It worked out once.
I strongly believe that a brief, cogent letter explaining valid reasons to oppose parole are very appreciated by the BPP.
This is an old string but relevant--we are planning new paperwork in lots of ways and looking at a Statement of Facts template we have historically used for prison packets. Where is the code for what is required? And I thought I saw at one time that only the electeds can sign these, but I don't see anything in a search today that says that. Any statutory guidance on what these say at time of send off to TDC?
Pen Packets are governed by CCP Art. 42.09, Sec. 8.
That's what I needed--thanks Shannon!
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