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Judge Orders Quick Parole for Murderer

Court: Ruling in Calabasas case accuses state board of unfairness. Prosecutors hope to postpone action during appeal.


SACRAMENTO — A Superior Court judge Thursday ordered a convicted murderer from Calabasas released from prison "forthwith," saying that he has been unfairly treated by a state parole board that refuses to follow the law.

The attorney for Robert Rosenkrantz, 33, demanded that authorities free him immediately from the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, where he has been for 14 years.

State lawyers said they plan to ask another court to postpone the release order until their appeal can be heard.

"We plan to keep Mr. Rosenkrantz in prison until our legal remedies are exhausted," said Stephen Green, an assistant secretary for the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency.

Legal experts familiar with the case called the order by Los Angeles Judge Kathryne Ann Stoltz startling and exceedingly rare. It is also a slam against Gov. Gray Davis, who appoints the parole board and is facing mounting criticism for opposing parole in all 26 cases he has reviewed since taking office.

Typically, the state Board of Prison Terms operates with little scrutiny and is given wide discretion by the courts to judge inmates as members see fit. The Rosenkrantz case, however, is different, and Thursday was not the first time Stoltz has intervened.

Last year, she concluded that the inmate was no longer a danger to society and ordered that a parole date be set. A state appellate court upheld that decision, saying the board had abused its discretion by keeping Rosenkrantz locked up and ordering members to declare the inmate ready for parole.

In July, the board did just that and set a release date. But during the hearing, commissioners made it clear that they were acting only under duress and would have kept Rosenkrantz locked up if not for the court's intervention.

In her 14-page order Thursday, Stoltz said those comments prove board members were "trying to subvert the finding of suitability for parole by inserting their personal opinions." In so doing, she wrote, the board "violated the spirit" of court orders directing them to free him and violated Rosenkrantz's due process rights.

"The defendant has not received a fair hearing and is not likely to at any time in the foreseeable future," Stoltz wrote.

Rowan Klein, the Los Angeles attorney for Rosenkrantz, said he was thrilled by the judge's ruling and will press for the immediate release of his client.

"Two courts have found that he does not pose a risk to society," Klein said. "Judge Stoltz made it very clear, it's time for him to be released.

Donald Specter of the nonprofit Prison Law Office, which helps inmates with legal matters, called the judge's order extraordinary.

"The judge's message is that Rosenkrantz is rehabilitated and he deserves to be released. And if you won't do it, I will," Specter said.

Larry Diamond, the Los Angeles deputy district attorney who prosecuted Rosenkrantz and has vigorously opposed his parole, attacked Stoltz and said she is turning a blind eye to important details of the inmate's crime.

"I think it's bizarre that Judge Stoltz refuses to acknowledge the true facts of this offense," Diamond said. "It appears that her view of the crime is based on a fictionalized, rewritten version of history."

Rosenkrantz was sentenced to 17 years to life for killing Steven Redman, a schoolmate who broke into his family's beach house and exposed him as a homosexual on the night Rosenkrantz graduated from Calabasas High School.

Convinced that his father would disown him after learning of his sexual orientation, Rosenkrantz fled and later confronted Redman, demanding that he retract the statement. When Redman refused, Rosenkrantz shot him 10 times with an Uzi outside Redman's Malibu condominium.

While in prison, Rosenkrantz has been a model inmate, earning college degrees and tutoring other prisoners. State psychiatrists say the risk that he will commit more crimes upon release is very low.

The judge's order came as the Rosenkrantz case was headed for the governor's desk for a final review. Davis has the authority to modify it, reverse it or let the date stand.

The case has become an issue in the Los Angeles County district attorney's race, with challenger Steve Cooley accusing Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti of supporting parole because a campaign contributor asked him to--a charge Garcetti denies.


Times staff writer Mitchell Landsberg contributed to this story.

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