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ARTIS v. U.S. DEPT. OF JUSTICE

October 18, 2001

RANDOLPH ARTIS, PETITIONER,
V.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge.

OPINION

I. BACKGROUND

On February 22, 1983, Petitioner was convicted by Army Court Martial of premeditated murder and sentenced to death. (Pet. at 1.) The conviction and sentence followed the 1982 crimes of Petitioner, which included bludgeoning his wife repeatedly in the head with a baseball bat until she was dead. (Resp't's Br. at 1.)

The tumultuous personal and family issues leading to the murder of Mrs. Artis are relevant. Petitioner got married in 1979, the marriage rapidly deteriorated, and three times Petitioner attempted to secure a divorce. (Resp't's Ex. 1, Prisoner's Progress Summary Data, DD Form 1477, dated September 8, 1986.) Each time, however, Petitioner's wife talked him out of it. (Id.) In 1982, the marital situation worsened, Petitioner's job performance deteriorated, and his military career ended when he received a Bar to Reenlistment in April 1982. (Id.) That same year, as a reaction to the failed marriage and his ruined military career, Petitioner attempted to commit suicide by ingesting pills. (Id.) On September 17, 1982, Petitioner killed his wife with a baseball bat, wrapped her body in a blanket, put it in the trunk of his car, drove away from the military housing quarters, and dropped her body on the side of the road. (Resp't's Ex. 2, Sentence Monitoring Computation Data.) Later that day the military police questioned him about his wife, and he admitted to the murder. (Id.)

On June 17, 1985, Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence to the United States Military Court of Appeals, and the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. (Pet. at 1.) On October 24, 1986, certiorari was denied by the United States Military Court. On November 6, 1992, the Army Clemency Board reduced petitioner's life sentence to ninety-nine years. (Id.) Later, three further reductions of Petitioner's sentence were made. (Resp't's Ex. 2, Sentence Monitoring Computation Data.) The Army Clemency Board reduced Petitioner's sentence to ninety-six years on October 28, 1994, to ninety-three years on December 5, 1997, and to ninety-one years on September 23, 1999.*fn1 (Id.)

On August 10, 1998, Petitioner was transferred from military custody to federal custody at the U.S. Penitentiary, Allenwood, Pennsylvania. (Resp't's Br. at 1.) He was subsequently transferred to FCI Fairton, where he has been housed since.*fn2 (Id.)

On December 9, 1998, the United States Parole Commission ("Commission") conducted an initial parole determination hearing. (Resp't's Ex. 3, Initial Hearing Summary, 12/9/98.) At that hearing, the Commission assigned Petitioner a salient factor score of 10 points, and rated his offense severity as Category Eight, because he committed murder.*fn3 (Resp't's Br. at 2.) This combination of salient factor score and offense severity category yielded a parole guideline range of 100-plus months.*fn4 (Resp't's Ex. 3, Initial Hearing Summary, 12/9/98.) The Commission found that release on parole would not be warranted within the next fifteen years and ordered that Petitioner's next reconsideration hearing would be held in December 2013.*fn5 (Exhibit 3, at 4.) The Commission notified Petitioner of this decision by notice of action dated December 29, 1998. (Resp't's Ex. 4, Notice of Action, 12/29/98.)

On administrative appeal, the National Appeals Board affirmed this decision on May 14, 1999. (Resp't's Ex. 5, Notice of Action on Appeal, 5/14/99.) The Board weighed factors such as Petitioner's advanced education, his institutional accomplishments, and considered Petitioner's argument that there were other mitigating factors regarding his crime and personal history that justified his parole. (Id.) However, when these factors were weighed against the "unusual brutality" of the murder, the Commission found that a lengthy continuance more than 48 months beyond the minimum of the parole guideline was still warranted. (Id.) Thus, the Commission informed Petitioner that "the severity of the offense was a permissible basis for denying [him] a parole date." (Id.)

On January 31, 2001, pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 2.14(a)(1)(ii), the Commission conducted a statutory interim hearing. (Resp't's Ex. 6, SIH/Review Hearing Summary, 1/31/01.) After considering Petitioner's additional institutional accomplishments, the Commission determined that no change in the prior order was warranted.*fn6 (Id.) Petitioner was informed of this decision by notice of action dated March 8, 2001. (Resp't's Ex. 7, Notice of Action, 3/8/01.)

On March 7, 2001, Petitioner had his habeas corpus petition filed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, alleging that Army regulations entitle him to annual parole hearings, and thus the Commission is violating his due process rights by not applying Army parole regulations to his case. (Pet. at 1.) Petitioner further claims that the Commission violated the ex post facto clause of the Constitution in applying the federal parole rules, rather than the Army parole regulations. (Id. at 4.)

II. DISCUSSION


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