Two inmates serving sentences for murder have been granted new parole hearings because officials neglected to use a risk assessment tool in evaluating their readiness for release.
The Appellate Division, Second Department, reversed Orange County Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bartlett and afforded William S. Kennedy and Sherman Symes another shot at parole.
Kennedy and Symes, both incarcerated at Otisville, were denied parole following hearings in January 2012. The Second Department said the parole board had failed to use a risk assessment tool, in violation of a 2011 amendment to the Executive Law that required the panel to “establish new procedures for use in making parole decisions.”
According to the nearly identical decisions in Matter of Kennedy, 9588/12, and Matter of Symes, 5330/12, the board adopted the “Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanction,” or COMPAS, tool to comply with the 2011 legislation, but had not begun to use it when Kennedy and Symes had their initial hearings. The Second Department said both are entitled to new hearings.
The inmates appeared pro se. Assistant Attorney General Mark Shawhan appeared for the parole board.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals this month granted leave in a parole case, raising a question of whether the 2011 amendments required the board to shift its focus from the instant offense to the inmate’s rehabilitation.
In Montane v. Evans, 2014 NY Slip Op 0165, the Appellate Division, Third Department, held that the amendments did not change the parole criteria—a finding at odds with public statements by sponsors of the legislation. The Court of Appeals granted leave on May 13. Two weeks earlier, it granted leave in Linares v. Evans, 2013 NY Slip Op 08189, another Third Department case raising questions about the 2011 amendments.