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State Court Bars Judge in Controversial Parole Case

Politics: The battle over Robert Rosenkrantz of Calabasas is seen as a test of Gov. Davis' hard-line stance on freeing convicted killers.

February 24, 2001|ROBERTO J. MANZANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A state appeals court Friday upheld a bid by the state attorney general's office to remove a Superior Court judge from hearing the parole case of convicted murderer Robert Rosenkrantz, who killed a Calabasas High School classmate for exposing him as a homosexual.

The 2-1 ruling by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles bars Superior Court Judge Kathryne Ann Stoltz from determining whether Gov. Gray Davis wrongly denied parole to Rosenkrantz.

Rosenkrantz fatally shot Steven Redman, 17, of Calabasas in 1985 because Redman had told Rosenkrantz's parents their son was homosexual. Rosenkrantz was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 17 years to life in prison.

Parole advocates have sought to make Rosenkrantz, 33, a test of Davis' stand against paroling convicted killers. Since taking office, Davis has allowed the parole of only one convicted killer in more than 30 cases he has reviewed.

Stoltz dismissed the attorney general's motion to disqualify her from considering Rosenkrantz's parole last December as "untimely." But the attorney general's office, which represented Davis in trying to move the case to a different judge, disagreed and vowed to appeal, arguing that Stoltz was "prejudiced" and could not be impartial.

"What it means is, the presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court will assign the case to another judge," said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

Rosenkrantz's attorney, Rowan Klein, did not return telephone calls Friday night.

Klein had filed an amended lawsuit alleging that Davis acted unconstitutionally in denying parole to his client. It was turned away by Stoltz, who cited an appellate court ruling that barred her from hearing any more motions concerning the case.

But then the same appellate court ruled that the Superior Court had jurisdiction.

In 1996, a three-member panel of the Board of Prison Terms found Rosenkrantz eligible for parole. But the determination was reversed by the full board after an internal review.

Rosenkrantz filed a lawsuit in 1998 challenging the board's actions, and Stoltz in 1999 ordered the board to find Rosenkrantz eligible for release. She later ordered his immediate release.

Faced with the threat of being cited for contempt, the board granted parole, which Davis blocked.

In the 15 years Rosenkrantz has been a prisoner, he has been a model inmate, earning a bachelor's degree and tutoring other prisoners, his lawyers said. He also has expressed remorse for the killing, according to family members. But Davis twice denied his parole, saying he believes Rosenkrantz has not served sufficient time for the crime.

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Times staff writer Caitlin Liu contributed to this story.

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