Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In Re Criscione (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 13, 2010)

Arthur Criscione was born in 1938, making him 71 or 72 years old. He's had 14 prior parole hearings. Would you let him out?

Here are the relevant facts:

"Criscione was convicted in 1979 of the second degree murder of his girlfriend, Dorothy Quinitar. He was sentenced to 15 years to life. . . . [O]n February 27, 1979, at approximately 1:20 a.m., defendant walked into the San Jose Police Department and reported a homicide . . . . [D]efendant's son Rick Criscione . . . indicated his father had come over to his apartment and told him, 'I just killed Dorothy and put her in the bathtub.' . . . [T]he victim was found fully clothed and lying in approximately eight and a half inches of water in the bathtub. . . . Further interview with the defendant's son revealed that when his father came to his apartment and told him of the homicide, he noted his father's hair was wet, and one pant leg was also wet. . . . Ricky stated his father told him he and the victim had gone out last night, and when they came home, she'd pulled a knife on him. Ricky stated that this was not unusual, in that she had done this type of thing in the past. The defendant related to his son that he had choked the victim and stated, 'I know she is dead.' . . . Ricky Criscione indicated he felt his father stated he hit the victim first, then choked her. . . . An attempt was made to interview the defendant, but he chose to remain silent. He did state words to the effect 'I don't want to say anything more right now. I did it. She's in my apartment. And I don't want to go back there.' The defendant provided the officer with his key ring and then began to tell him the victim was 'a crystal freak.' And that she had been on glue, drugs, and crystal for approximately five years. . . .

Criscione completed the tenth grade at San Jose High School, then went to work in his father's bakery. He had also worked as a produce clerk and part-time as a bouncer at a bar. Criscione had no juvenile record and no convictions as an adult other than the offense for which he was incarcerated. He had a history of mental problems, having been treated with electroshock therapy on several occasions up until the age of 38 or 39. He did not smoke or drink. He had been married to Doris Cabrera; they had three children together. The marriage had been marked by violence. Criscione had beaten and choked Cabrera, sometimes leaving bruises on her neck. Cabrera was known to have pretended to pass out to make the choking stop. The marriage ended in divorce in 1977.

Criscione had a nearly spotless prison record with no major disciplinary infractions and only two minor infractions, the most recent from 1983. Criscione also had numerous laudatory notations in his file. He had participated in a long list of self-help programs, most with the Golden Hills Adult School Literacy Program. Because the commissioners at the 2007 parole hearing suggested book reports, Criscione had completed several of those as well.

If released on parole, Criscione planned to live with his brother in Corona Del Mar, with his son in Turlock, or with his sister in San Clemente. He was eligible for Social Security and a pension from the Retail Clerks union.

The Board referred to a psychological report by Garry L. Hitchcock, Ph.D., dated March 17, 2008, noting that the report was “favorable.” The Board then read a portion of the report into the record, as follows: “The inmate currently exhibits no psychiatric symptoms, and he appears to be functioning well within the prison setting. Risk assessment estimates suggest that the inmate poses a low likelihood to become involved in a violent offense if released to the free community. This overall risk assessment estimate takes into account the inmate's cultural background, personal, social, and criminal history, institutional programming, community social support, release plans, and current clinical presentation. In addition, there is the caveat that such an assessment is at least partially based on the likelihood of abstinence from any substance abuse. . . . The inmate does not currently see himself as a criminal, but rather as someone who wants to be a productive, responsible citizen in the free community. When he is asked to identify his personal strengths, Mr. Criscione replied, 'I‟m a very organized person. I keep my word. As far as work, I'm a very reliable and dependent [sic] person. I'm loyal to my family.

When he was asked how he has changed over the years of incarceration, Mr. Criscione replied, 'My values have changed. A lot of things you take for granted in the free world, values I held before prison seem silly and ridiculous. And the things I took for granted, I found they are the most precious.'"

There's the basic scoop. Would you keep him in, or let him out?

The answer in the real world? Keep him in.