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THIRD CIRCUIT PANEL BLASTS PAROLE OFFICIALS PHILADELPHIA — In a decision that sharply criticizes the actions of Pennsylvania parole officials, a federal appeals court has ordered the release of Louis Mickens-Thomas — a 75-year-old Philadelphia man imprisoned since 1964 — after finding that the board’s latest explanations for denying his parole was a “thinly veiled excuse” that “leaves us with no doubt of its bad faith.” In Mickens-Thomas v. Vaughn, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found that the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole had shown a pattern of “vindictiveness” and “retaliation” toward Mickens-Thomas by raising new issues at each parole hearing after he went to court and successfully challenged the board’s prior decisions. “The board’s use of known but hitherto uncounted historical factors after [Mickens-Thomas] brought state and federal actions has created a sufficient appearance of vindictiveness to justify voiding any consideration of those newly added factors,” Senior Circuit Judge Max Rosenn wrote. “Those factors are not only unworthy of consideration, but also raise a presumption of vindictiveness on the part of the board,” Rosenn wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Dolores Sloviter and Theodore McKee. The ruling is a victory for attorneys David Rudovsky of Kairys Rudovsky Epstein & Messing and professor Leonard Sosnov of the Widener University School of Law, who have been fighting for Mickens-Thomas’ release for eight years. Mickens-Thomas is serving a life sentence for a murder he has always insisted he did not commit. — The Legal Intelligencer

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