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Coscia v. New Jersey State Parole Board

March 11, 2008

GREGORY COSCIA, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
NEW JERSEY STATE PAROLE BOARD, RESPONDENT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the New Jersey State Parole Board.

Per curiam.

RECORD IMPOUNDED

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued February 7, 2008

Before Judges Parrillo and S.L. Reisner.

Gregory Coscia appeals from an August 18, 2006 final decision of the Parole Board denying Coscia's application for parole and setting a 144-month future eligibility term (FET). We remand this matter to the Parole Board for reconsideration.

I.

Coscia was convicted of a murder that he committed on January 3, 1981. He stabbed the victim, Deborah Freedman, multiple times including inserting a knife into her vagina. On October 9, 1981, he was sentenced to life in prison with twenty-five years of parole ineligibility. This appeal arises from his first parole hearing after he had served twenty-five years in prison.

At the parole hearing, it was apparent that Coscia had undergone years of therapy while incarcerated. He mentioned to the Adult Panel that he had "twelve or thirteen years of therapy." However, in denying his application for parole and setting a 144-month FET, when the ordinary FET for an inmate convicted of murder is twenty-seven months, N.J.A.C. 10A:71-3.21(a)1, the Adult Panel did not consider any of Coscia's psychiatric treatment records. Nor did the Board consider those records.

II.

In deciding whether to grant Coscia parole, the Board was obligated to consider the pre-1997 statutory standard, which was whether there was a "substantial likelihood that the inmate will commit a crime under the law of this State if released on parole." Trantino v. N.J. State Parole Bd., 154 N.J. 19, 31 (1998). Before reaching a decision, the Adult Panel and the Board were required to consider all relevant and reliable information about the inmate. N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.55c. However, despite the fact that Coscia advised the Adult Panel of his history of psychiatric treatment while in prison, the Panel only considered two psychiatric reports from 1981, prepared for purposes of Coscia's trial, and a 2005 report from Dr. Gomberg, who examined Coscia once for purposes of informing the parole decision. The Panel did not consider the records of any other psychological evaluations during Coscia's lengthy imprisonment. Thus, the Panel did not have a full picture of the inmate's psychological condition and the extent of his rehabilitation.

In N.J. State Parole Board v. Cestari, 224 N.J. Super. 534 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 111 N.J. 649 (1998), we considered a similar situation in which the Board did not consider all of the inmate's psychological records before making a decision:

It appears from the record that the Adult Panel committed further procedural error by not considering all available psychiatric and psychological reports regarding Cestari. N.J.S.A. 30:4-123.55c obligates a Board panel at a parole hearing to ". . . receive as evidence any relevant and reliable documents." Cestari advised the Panel that he had attended four sessions at the Mount Carmel Guild in Newark, where he had been evaluated by the heads of the psychiatry and psychology departments, and that he understood those evaluations were favorable. The Panel's response to Cestari was that they had no reports from the mental health professionals at the Mount Carmel Guild. However, the record does not indicate that the Panel made any effort to obtain those reports or that it considered Cestari's representation that those reports had been favorable.

We conclude that the Adult Panel should have obtained the written reports prepared at the Mount Carmel Guild. Cestari was referred to the Mount Carmel Guild while an inmate in the New Jersey correctional system. Therefore, the reports prepared at that facility were undoubtedly available to correction officials and should have been placed in his parole file. Furthermore, when the members of the Panel were advised that those reports were not in the parole file, they should have obtained them. It is ...


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