SACRAMENTO -- The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that a 2008 law reducing the frequency of state parole hearings applies even to inmates who were already serving life sentences when voters approved the constitutional amendment.
Marsy's Law, named after the slain sister of a California businessman who helped fund the ballot measure, extends the time between parole hearings.
The law arguably spares crime victims and their families the trauma of confronting their attackers in parole hearings that took place as frequently as once a year.
Michael Vicks is serving a life sentence for two crime sprees involving multiple robberies, kidnapping and sexual assaults in 1983. At his first parole hearing in 2009, Vicks was deemed unsuitable for release and a new parole hearing was not set for five years.
Vicks contended the 2008 law should not be applied to those convicted before it was passed. A state appeals court in 2011 agreed with Vicks. The state Supreme Court, however, did not.
The high court on Monday said Marsy's Law covers all inmates serving life sentences no matter when their crimes took place. That gives parole commissioners the option of deferring new hearings for anywhere from three to 15 years. Earlier hearings may be held if parole officials decide there is new information or a change in circumstance.