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Trantino v. New Jersey State Parole Board

May 15, 1998

THOMAS TRANTINO, APPELLANT AND CROSS-RESPONDENT,
v.
NEW JERSEY STATE PAROLE BOARD AND NEW JERSEY STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENTS AND CROSS-APPELLANTS. THOMAS TRANTINO, APPELLANT AND CROSS-RESPONDENT,
v.
NEW JERSEY STATE PAROLE BOARD, SUPERINTENDENT DONALD E. LEWIS AND NEW JERSEY STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, RESPONDENTS AND CROSS-APPELLANTS.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

SYLLABUS

(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

have been summarized).

Thomas Trantino v. New Jersey State Parole Board, et al. (A-43/44-97)

Argued October 6, 1997

Decided May 15, 1998

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

house.

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

premature.

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

released. (pp. 7-10)

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 ...


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