(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been
prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader.
It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please
note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not
Thomas Trantino v. New Jersey State Parole Board, et al. (A-43/44-97)
Handler, J., writing for a unanimous Court.
On August 23, 1964, Thomas Trantino was found guilty of first
degree murder. He was sentenced to die. Although there were two murder
victims, Sgt. Peter Voto of the Lodi police force and police trainee
Gary Tedesco, Trantino was indicted on only one count of murder.
Trantino remained on death row until 1972 when the New Jersey death
penalty statute was declared unconstitutional. Trantino's sentence was
commuted to one term of life imprisonment under Title 2A, the criminal
law that was in effect at the time. Title 2A did not provide for any
mandatory minimum time of imprisonment.
Trantino's efforts to secure parole have been extensive. The
within appeal arises out of a series of actions that began on September
18, 1991, with a denial of parole by the Parole Board. Ultimately, the
Board issued a decision on May 20, 1996, denying Trantino parole and
establishing a ten-year parole ineligibility term. Trantino appealed
that decision to the Appellate Division.
In 1997, the Appellate Division handed down three separate opinions
in deciding Trantino's appeal. The majority held that the refusal of
the Department of Corrections (DOC) to transfer Trantino to a halfway
house was invalid but that the denial of Trantino's parole was not an
abuse of discretion. The matter was remanded to the DOC to reconsider
the application to transfer Trantino to a halfway house. The Dissenting
member concluded that Trantino should have been assigned to a halfway
Because of the Dissent below, Trantino had an appeal as of right to
the Supreme Court. The Court also granted the State's petition for
certification, which challenged the remand to the DOC to reconsider the
halfway house application.
HELD: The Parole Board's ultimate determination of Thomas Trantino's
parole fitness must be based on whether there is a likelihood that he
will again engage in criminal activity. Because the Board's denial of
parole focused instead on whether Trantino has achieved complete
rehabilitation, the matter must be remanded to the Board for
reconsideration. Therefore, the Appellate Division's remand to
reconsider Trantino's eligibility for transfer to a halfway house was
1. Decisions of the Parole Board are subject to the same standard of
judicial review as other administrative agencies. Board decisions
should not be reversed by a court unless found to be arbitrary or an
abuse of discretion. (pp. 4-7)
2. For prisoners serving a sentence under Title 2A, the current
statutory standard for parole fitness incorporates a selective and
limited consideration of punishment that relates to the basic question
of whether, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there is a
substantial likelihood of future criminal activity if the inmate is
3. The Parole Board appears to have applied a parole standard that
concentrated on whether Trantino had made sufficient progress in
rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is relevant only as it bears on the
likelihood that the inmate will not again resort to crime. Because it
is unclear whether the Board applied an incorrect ...