On appeal from the New Jersey State Parole Board.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: September 27, 2010
Before Judges A.A. Rodriguez and C.L. Miniman.
Inmate Melquides Tavares appeals from a final agency decision of the New Jersey State Parole Board (Board) denying him parole and establishing a thirty-six-month Future Eligibility Term (FET). Because the Board's action was neither arbitrary nor capricious, we affirm.
Tavares is incarcerated at Northern State Prison in Newark and is serving a thirty-year term with a mandatory minimum term of fifteen years on a conviction for first-degree aggravated manslaughter. On March 6, 1994, Tavares, without provocation, stabbed his estranged wife, Maxima, twice in the chest, resulting in her death.
This attack occurred at least one month after Tavares and Maxima separated. Maxima took a trip to her home in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, after the separation and returned on March 6, 1994. Tavares picked her up at the airport and took her to her sister's home, where Tavares had been living since the separation, for a welcome-home party.
During the party, Maxima was telling various guests about the times she had while in the Dominican Republic, which included going to discotheques, going to the beach, and drinking beer. She also stated that on one occasion she stayed out all night and did not return until nine o'clock the next morning. Maxima also had a telephone conversation with someone in the kitchen during which she described the good times she had had in her homeland. She then sat down at the kitchen table and began a similar conversation with another friend of hers.
While Maxima was in the kitchen, Tavares was seated at the table in the dining room. Tavares got up, walked into the kitchen, and picked up a serrated knife from the counter. He approached Maxima, who was still seated at the kitchen table, and stabbed her two times under the left breast.
The police were called immediately, and when they arrived, Tavares stated, "I did it, I did it, sorry," and placed his hands behind his back. He was arrested and taken to police headquarters. Maxima was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead at 6:04 p.m.
Tavares pled guilty to first-degree aggravated manslaughter and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, which was merged into the manslaughter conviction for sentencing purposes. He was sentenced on January 26, 1996. On February 3, 1997, an immigration judge ordered Tavares deported to the Dominican Republic upon his release from prison. He has an immigration detainer lodged against him.
In preparation for Tavares's first Parole Eligibility Date of March 4, 2009, the Board prepared a case summary on August 4, 2008, and sought pre-parole housing, work, and special-activities reports, as well as medical records respecting Tavares. On December 4, 2008, Tavares received an initial hearing before a hearing officer, who referred the matter to a two-member Adult Panel. The hearing officer made this referral because N.J.A.C. 10A:71-3.15(b) required him to do so since Tavares had been convicted of aggravated manslaughter. He also based it on the serious nature of the offense and an unfavorable interview in which Tavares minimized his criminal conduct.
On December 23, 2008, the two-member Adult Panel considered Tavares's parole eligibility. At that time, Tavares testified that he lost control of himself because his wife attacked him with words in front of people from his workplace, causing him humiliation. He claimed that he loved his wife very much but was under a lot of stress from work. When asked why he responded so violently to mere words, he replied, "Well, at that moment at that time that my woman was attacking me too much verbally. . . . And I got up and I didn't think. And I attacked her."
At the end of the hearing, the Adult Panel found that Tavares blamed the victim for the reason he killed her. "And he needs to really start finding out what drove him to the point that he acted so violently that he took someone's life just because, in his words, which he ...