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Judges Uphold Killer's Parole

September 26, 2002|MAURA DOLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — California prisoners have a constitutional right to be released on parole if they meet the requirements of state law, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

A three-member panel of the federal appeals court decided unanimously that Carl McQuillion, 53, who was convicted of two Long Beach murders in 1973, should be released from state prison.

The court said state parole officials presented no evidence to justify revoking McQuillion's 1994 parole date six months before his scheduled release. Gov. Pete Wilson had appointed the parole board that rescinded the release date.

McQuillion, who has become a motivational speaker in prison, had unsuccessfully appealed the recision in state courts, including the California Supreme Court.

Monica Knox, a deputy federal public defender who is representing McQuillion, said the ruling will remove one hurdle prosecutors erect to prevent inmates from being released on parole, but the effect on the parole system should not be dramatic.

No significant impact is expected on a major parole case pending before the California Supreme Court. In that case, the state high court will decide whether Gov. Gray Davis can block the release of inmates who have been found suitable for parole by the state Board of Prison Terms.

Wednesday's ruling, written by Judge William A. Fletcher, said the state needed to present some evidence to support its 1994 decision to rescind McQuillion's release date. The court found that there was no new evidence.

The original decision to grant McQuillion parole was made in 1977, when a board determined that he was no longer a threat to the public. Based on his conduct in prison, he received the 1994 release date in 1979. In rescinding parole as "improvidently granted," the board in 1994 considered all the same evidence that the earlier panel had studied, the court said.

"The recision panel obviously disagreed with the substance of the granting panel's decision," Fletcher wrote. "But this does not mean that the granting panel did not adequately consider the evidence before it."

McQuillion and an accomplice entered a sporting goods store in Long Beach on Dec. 26, 1970, and killed the proprietors, a father and his son. McQuillion said he was in the process of tying up the son when the son tried to reach for his gun. McQuillion shot him, and his accomplice shot the father.

McQuillion was sentenced to life in prison. While a prisoner, he has formed organizations to help new inmates adjust and has helped inmates with legal questions.

Knox said McQuillion met an ex-convict when he was 18 and went on a three-year rampage of robberies. He had no previous record, she said. "They always went to great lengths not to hurt anybody," she said. "In the Long Beach robbery, the plan was not to hurt anybody."

Knox has said McQuillion will work with other convicts to help them adjust to life after prison when he is released. He already has been permitted to leave prison for short periods to give speeches.

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