WA Supreme Court Rules to Uphold Governor's Right to Cancel Parole
OLYMPIA - The Washington State Supreme Court today upheld the governor’s authority to cancel parole for dangerous criminals in Washington — even if the state’s parole board recommends otherwise.
The case involved the violent shooting of a Richland police officer by Iowa parolee, Jerry Dean Lain, in September 1982. Officer Mike Fitzpatrick attempted to detain Lain during a suspected car prowl. Lain fled, Fitzpatrick chased him and Lain attacked Fitzpatrick. Lain eventually took control of Fitzpatrick’s gun and shot him twice, including once in the face. Fitzpatrick survived but suffered serious injuries.
Lain was convicted and received a minimum sentence of 240 months and a maximum sentence of life in prison, with review by the state’s Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board (ISRB).
In November 2010, the ISRB recommended Lain be released on parole to live with his parents in Iowa. In December 2010, Gov. Chris Gregoire cancelled Lain’s parole, citing concerns that he was at a medium to high risk to commit general and violent crimes again should he be released. She also pointed to the fact that he shot Officer Fitzpatrick while on parole from Iowa.
Lain challenged the governor’s authority to overturn recommendations of the ISRB, claimed the ISRB abused its power by adding 36 months to Lain’s term after the governor rejected his parole and asserted multiple constitutional claims.
In the 9-0 ruling, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of state law giving the governor power to grant or cancel parole. The court also rejected Lain’s other claims. The case was Solicitor General Noah Purcell’s first oral argument before the Washington State Supreme Court since joining the Attorney General’s Office in February 2013.
“This is an important ruling about the governor’s power to review parole decisions and ensure public safety,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Lain will remain incarcerated at the Monroe Correctional Complex, serving his life sentence, unless he is granted parole by the ISRB and that parole is not canceled by the governor.