Robles v. Dennison

Decision Date13 October 2010
Docket NumberNo. 05–CV–0428(VEB).,05–CV–0428(VEB).
Citation745 F.Supp.2d 244
PartiesRichard ROBLES, Petitioner,v.Robert DENNISON, Chairman, N.Y.S. Division of Parole.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of New York


Robert Joseph Boyle, New York, NY, for Petitioner.Jodi A. Danzig, New York, NY, Darren Longo, Buffalo, NY, for Respondent.


VICTOR E. BIANCHINI, United States Magistrate Judge.I. Introduction

Pro se petitioner Richard Robles (Robles), by this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenges the constitutionality of decisions of the New York State Division of Parole (“the Parole Board) repeatedly denying him parole. (Docket No. 1). The parties have consented to disposition of this matter by a magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1).1

Robles was first committed to the New York State Department of Corrections on January 12, 1966, following a jury trial in New York County Supreme Court for two counts of first degree murder. Robles initially was sentenced to a term of natural life in prison. However, in the 1970s, the New York State Legislature amended the law to make prisoners such as Robles eligible for parole after serving a minimum of twenty (20) years of his sentence.

According the papers submitted to this Court, Robles had his first parole hearing in November 1984. Since that time, Robles has appeared before the Parole Board every two years and, on each of these twelve (12) occasions, the Board has denied parole and ordered Robles held for another twenty-four months, the maximum time statutorily permitted between parole hearings.

Robles challenges a number of the Parole Board's decisions denying parole. Respondent has asserted the defense of non-exhaustion with regard to all of the denials except the 2002 denial, as to which respondent concedes that Robles has exhausted his administrative and state-court remedies. Thus, the key parole denial before the Court in the instant habeas petition is that rendered on May 7, 2002. The Parole Board denied release in a perfunctory decision with language remarkably similar to all of its previous denials, and ordered that Robles be held for another 24 months (the maximum hold time possible) before he would again be eligible for another parole hearing. Represented by counsel, Robles pursued an unsuccessful administrative appeal of the 2002 parole denial was unsuccessful. Robles' attorney then sought judicial review pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (“C.P.L.R.”) New York State Supreme Court, Wyoming County. The county court judge denied the petition in a written decision and order. The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, of New York State Supreme Court, unanimously affirmed the decision on appeal. Robles v. Travis, 9 A.D.3d 919, 779 N.Y.S.2d 377 (4th Dept.2004). The New York Court of Appeals denied leave to appeal on October 21, 2004. Robles v. Travis, 3 N.Y.3d 610, 786 N.Y.S.2d 813, 820 N.E.2d 292 (N.Y.2004).

On May 4, 2004, and again May 9, 2006, the Parole Division again denied Robles parole release. This Court recently has received correspondence from Robles indicating that his most recent parole hearing, held on May 8, 2008, resulted in, unsurprisingly, another denial of release.

Robles commenced this habeas proceeding on April 5, 2005, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging that the Parole Division's decisions denying him parole violated the Ex Post Facto Clause, Due Process Clause, and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

The Court dismissed respondent's pre-answer motion to dismiss, and ordered respondent to answer the petition. After receiving respondent's answer and memorandum of law, and Robles' reply brief, the Court requested additional information from the parties concerning, e.g., the specifics of the parole denials.

For the reasons that follow, the request for a writ of habeas corpus is denied and the petition is dismissed.

II. Factual Background and Procedural HistoryA. The Underlying Conviction and Post–Conviction Proceedings

In the late morning of August of 1963, while under parole supervision for a second-degree assault conviction, Robles entered an apartment in Manhattan through a window with the intent of burglarizing it. Once inside the apartment, which he thought was unoccupied, he encountered a young woman, who was in bed, sleeping. Robles forced the woman to perform oral sex on him; he then attempted to have anal intercourse with her but she asked him to stop. At about that time, one of the woman's roommates entered the apartment. Robles bound them both and tied them up together. The second woman told Robles that she would remember his face and would make sure that the police caught him. At that point, Robles would later explain, he “snapped” and began striking the women with soda bottles, rendering them unconscious. He then stabbed them repeatedly with kitchen knives, killing them both. See Respondent's Exhibit (“Resp't Ex.”) CC at 2–7.2 The women's bodies were later discovered by the third roommate and the father of one of the victims.

Following a jury trial, Robles was convicted of two counts of first degree murder. He was sentenced in 1966 to term of life in prison. See Resp't Ex. B. Following a change in New York's penal law, Robles was re-sentenced in the 1970s to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of twenty (20) years to life. See Resp't Ex. C at p. 2.

On May 8, 1969, the Appellate Division, First Department, of New York State Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Robles' conviction but did not issue any opinion in connection therewith. People v. Robles, 32 A.D.2d 741, 300 N.Y.S.2d 510 (N.Y.App.Div.1969). The New York Court of Appeals granted leave to appeal. The conviction was affirmed by a five-to-two divided panel on September 24, 1970. People v. Robles, 27 N.Y.2d 155, 314 N.Y.S.2d 793, 263 N.E.2d 304 (N.Y.1970).3 The Supreme Court denied certiorari. Robles v. People, 401 U.S. 945, 91 S.Ct. 959, 28 L.Ed.2d 227 (1971). The New York Court of Appeals subsequently denied Robles' motion for reargument.

B. Proceedings before the Parole Board

Beginning on November 5, 1984, the Parole Division periodically interviewed Robles pursuant to New York Executive Law (Executive Law) § 259–i to determine his suitability for parole release. As detailed more fully below, parole was denied in each instance.

1. The 1984 Parole Denial

Prior to Robles' first parole hearing, Dr. Mayeed Rahman, a psychiatrist at Auburn Correctional Facility, examined Robles. Dr. Rahman issued a report containing the following conclusion:

On the basis of the interview and perusal of his records, the inmate does not appear to be mentally ill or dangerous at the present time. He has realistic plans for the future. I do not see any psychiatric contraindication to his release in the society at this time. However, he should continue to participate in some counselling [sic] in order to maintain the progress he has made during the period of his incarceration.

Petitioner's Exhibit (“Pet'r Ex.”) I–1.

Following a hearing, the Parole Board denied parole in the following decision:

Parole denied. Hold 24 months with a psych. [sic] (11/86 Bd.)

Based on the nature and circumstances of the current offenses, two counts of murder in the first degree, wherein two young women were stabbed to death—one sexually abused, and her naked body tied to the clothed body of the other victim. You were convicted by jury trial and although you deny the allegations, your appeals have been denied.

Note is made of your reduction of natural life sentence through Chapters 343 and 344, to twenty years to life. Your institutional record is extremely satisfactory as to program participation. However, the gravity of the instant offense precludes release consideration.

Continue in constructive institutional programming. Statutory limitations preclude a longer hold. Guidelines are unspecified.

See Resp't Ex. E (emphasis supplied). The Parole Board did not make any mention of Dr. Rahman's positive mental health evaluation of Robles, and his favorable opinion that Robles did not pose a future threat of dangerousness. Rather, the Parole Board relied solely on the nature of Robles' crime to justify their decision to deny release.

2. The 1986 Parole Denial

Two years later, Robles had his second parole hearing. At the beginning of this hearing, Commissioner Mulhulland, one of the board members noted that Robles now had accepted responsibility for the offense, and complimented him:

In the institution I guess we couldn't have a much better inmate. You have been with us for 22 years. Haven't had a ticket in the last 10 years.... You appear to be well liked by the inmates.... I have not found anything negative about you in here....

See Transcript of 1986 Parole Hearing, Resp't Ex. F. Robles then was asked to talk about the crime. He related his actions on the morning of the burglary in a vivid narrative without any prompting. Robles talked about how when he first came to prison, telling the Parole Board that he was “a drug addict” filled with [s]elf-loathing”, “destroying his own life and other lives.” He said that he “hated [him]self” at the time and explained the emotional difficulties he experienced growing up in an alcoholic family. Robles talked about how he “turned [his] feeling about [him]self around” as he “saw [him]self helping people through his involvement in, for example, the inmate's Liaison Committee and working with David Rothenburg of the Fortune Society. See id. Robles explained that he had gotten an education, and wished to pursue teaching art (he had taught both art and photography while in prison). He believed that he was a different person than he was 22 years ago, and the change was the result of helping himself by helping others. See id. The Parole Board's only question of Robles was a hypothetical: “what would be the sanctions be for ... taking two other lives[?] Robles answered that [u...

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    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
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1 books & journal articles
  • Proportionality and parole.
    • United States
    • University of Pennsylvania Law Review Vol. 160 No. 6, May 2012
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