Tulsa Attorney BlogGovernor Stacks Oklahoma Parole Board with Cops, Prosecutors

Replaces Tulsa Pastor Who Chaired 2014 Board

Oklahoma parole attorneyThe start of a new gubernatorial term in Oklahoma means another opportunity for the governor to appoint three members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. Gov. Mary Fallin took the opportunity to further stack the board with retired cops and former prosecutors.

Read the Oklahoma parole board’s Website and you might get the impression the parole board is a panel of dispassionate lawyers assisted by a broad cross section of everyday citizens. Members “have also had professions as a Banker, Ministers, Telephone Operator, Real Estate Broker, Butcher, Radio Station Operator, Newspaper Reporter, Teachers, a Housewife, etc.” states the official parole board Website.

Check the list of parole board appointees, however, and you will see a different picture. For her three appointments to the five member board, Fallin’s picks this year include two retired cops and a former prosecutor. The chairman she decided not to replace, Marc Dreyer, is a Tulsa pastor – and a former federal drug enforcement agent.

Sentencing Judge to Hear Parole Pleadings

The man Fallin tapped to replace Dreyer, Robert “Brett” Macey recently retired as a lieutenant in the Oklahoma City Police Department. Macey’s father, Bob Macey, was Oklahoma County District Attorney for 21 years, during which time he obtained death sentences against dozens of defendants convicted of murder.

For her two other appointments, Fallin retained two current members of the Parole Board, both of whom boast law enforcement backgrounds. Patricia High was senior felony prosecutor in the Oklahoma County DA’s office for 19 years. Vanessa Price retired in 2012 as an Oklahoma City police officer at the end of a 22 year law enforcement career.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals selected retiring Tulsa County District Judge Tom Gillert to fill the one seat to which the criminal court appoints a Parole Board member. As a Tulsa judge, Gillert sent numerous inmates to the prison system where he will now make parole decisions.

During his career as a Tulsa district court judge, the new parole board member who will now hear inmates’ clemency pleas in capital punishment cases also sentenced defendants to death. Gillert previously worked as a Tulsa assistant district attorney.

The Oklahoma Constitution bars attorneys serving on the parole board from representing anybody in Oklahoma charged with a felony. The constitution does not, however, bar cops, prosecutors or judges from voting in parole decisions related to someone they arrested, prosecuted or sentenced.

As of this writing, the Oklahoma Supreme Court had not yet announced its pick for the one seat on the five-member parole board to which the top civil court appoints a member.

Will Crowded Oklahoma Prisons Prompt Paroles?

In 2012, Oklahoma voters approved a constitutional amendment that gave the parole board the final word in parole decisions for non-violent offenders. The governor previously had 30 days to enter a decision after the parole board made a decision related to parole of a non-violent offender. Oklahoma is the only state in the U.S. where a governor makes final decisions on parole.

With cops, prosecutors and judges comprising the majority of parole board members, it remains to be seen whether the board will exercise its new autonomy independently of the Governor’s predictable tough-on-crime mentality.

An Oklahoma prison official recently told the Oklahoma Board of Corrections the statewide prison system houses nearly 20 percent more inmates than its capacity. When the prison system exceeds its capacity, state law allows the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board to consider parole for non-violent offenders who are withing six months of their release date.

Free Consultation: Tulsa Parole Attorney

A person appearing before the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is not required to have an attorney, but may rely on an attorney to better prepare their presentation at a parole hearing. If you are a loved one are facing an upcoming parole hearing, contact a Tulsa parole attorney to learn more about your rights and how to best present yourself to the parole board.

For a free consultation with a Wirth Law Office parole lawyer in Tulsa, call (918) 879-1681 or send your question using the form at the top of this page.

 

 

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