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UNITED STATES v. FLETCHER

January 16, 1976

UNITED STATES of America,
v.
Heidi Ann FLETCHER, Heidi Ann FLETCHER, Petitioner, v. Edward H. LEVI et al., Respondents



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

 JUNE L. GREEN, District Judge.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. On December 15, 1971, Heidi Ann Fletcher was convicted in this Court by plea of guilty to Federal and District of Columbia Code offenses of first degree murder, bank robbery and related charges arising out of her participation as the driver of the escape vehicle in a bank robbery in the District of Columbia in which a Metropolitan Police Officer was killed.

 2. At the time of her conviction, Heidi Ann Fletcher was 21 years old and therefore eligible for sentencing under the Youth Corrections Act. At a sentencing hearing, evidence was presented that petitioner had great potential for rehabilitation. Accordingly, on December 15, 1971, this Court sentenced petitioner pursuant to § 5010(c) of the YCA, which provides that "if the court shall find that the youth offender may not be able to derive maximum benefit from treatment by the [Youth Correction Division of the Board of Parole] prior to the expiration of six years from the date of conviction it may, in lieu of the penalty of imprisonment otherwise provided by law, sentence the youth offender to the custody of the Attorney General for treatment and supervision pursuant to this chapter for any further period [of time]." The Court imposed a nine-year commitment.

 3. Heidi Ann Fletcher was first committed to the Terminal Island Facility, Long Beach, California, and was subsequently transferred to Pleasanton, California, Pursuant to the practice of the Parole Board in 1972, Heidi Ann Fletcher was originally considered for conditional release within six months of her incarceration. 40 Fed.Reg. 41329, § 2.11 (September 5, 1974) (hereinafter "Regs.") At that time, conditional release was denied and her case was continued for a further institutional review hearing in the Spring of 1975.

 4. During her confinement, petitioner has taken advantage of and benefited from the treatment opportunities provided by the Youth Act, principally individual and group therapy and vocational and educational programs. In the view of the institutional case manager, "she has served as an example of maturity and good deportment to other residents."

 
Ms. Fletcher has given every indication that she is ready for release to the community. She has served a great deal of time and made many changes in her life since commitment. Although her needs have been somewhat less than many of our residents, Ms. Fletcher has taken the opportunity to use her incarceration to accomplish constructive goals. It is evident that her most important progress was at Terminal Island, and Pleasanton has been a way of reintegration into the community for her. With her current employment and stable family situation, placement in a community residential facility is not indicated; therefore, it is recommended that Ms. Fletcher be paroled to a U.S.P.O. approved plan in June, 1975. Exhibit A.

 The Parole Board's Action

 6. Pursuant to the Board's 1972 decision "to set-off" petitioner for three years, a parole hearing was held at the Federal Youth Center at Pleasanton before a panel of two examiners of the Board on May 29, 1975. The hearing examiners had available to them the Institutional Report (Exhibit A) and heard the testimony of her counsellors, indicating that Heidi Ann Fletcher was rehabilitated and ready for conditional release. On May 29, 1975, petitioner was advised that her case was designated "Original Jurisdiction" and would be referred for decision to the Parole Board. See, 28 C.F.R. § 2.17. On June 20, 1975, petitioner was informed by the Board that it had denied her application for immediate conditional release and continued her case for two more years for an institutional review hearing in May of 1977. Exhibit B. In accordance with the Board's regulations, petitioner was informed in the Notice of Action that her salient factor score was 10, thus indicating that she had the most favorable prognosis for parole. The sole "reason" given for the denial of conditional release was as follows:

 
Your offense behavior has been rated as greatest severity because of the magnitude of the offense. You have a salient factor score of 10. You have been in custody a total of 45 months. Board guidelines for greatest severity cases do not specify a maximum limit. Therefore, the decision in your case has been based in part upon a comparison of the relative severity of your offense behavior with the offense behavior examples listed in the very high severity category. Your release at this time would depreciate the seriousness of the offense committed and thus is incompatible with the welfare of society. Exhibit B.

 7. Petitioner exhausted her administrative remedy by appealing the June 20th decision to the entire Board of Parole. She specifically argued to the Board that the severity of the offense criteria could not be used as a sole reason for denying conditional release to an otherwise qualified youth offender. On October 15, 1975, at the regular meeting of the Board of Parole, Petitioner's appeal was heard with the Parole Board sitting as the National Appeals Board. On that date, without stating any additional reason, the denial of conditional release based on the severity of the offense was affirmed.

 8. On December 10, 1975, Petitioner applied to this Court for relief alleging that her continued confinement as a youth offender based solely on the severity of her offense was unlawful. Her application for relief took two forms: A Motion to Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ...


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