On appeal from the New Jersey State Parole Board.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Payne and Reisner.
Parolee, John Nelson, appeals from the October 20, 2010 final decision of the New Jersey State Parole Board denying his request for early discharge from parole supervision. On appeal, he argues:
THE DECISION TO DENY NELSON DISCHARGE WAS ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS
A. The Board has no Guiding Criteria For Discharge Matters.
B. The Board's Consideration Related Little to Discharge.
1. Inaccurate Information
2. Gut Reactions About Prescribed Medication
a. The Invidious Nature of the Board's Reliance on Appellant's Handicaps
3. Arbitrary Reliance on Remorse
4. The Burden on Appellant to Justify Discharge
5. Appellant's "Debt to Society"
6. A Decision Unsupported by the Record
The record reflects that, on November 21, 1973, Nelson was sentenced to life in custody following his conviction by a jury on charges of murder and to a consecutive sentence of five to seven years on his conviction on charges of assault with the intent to kill. It appears that Nelson was the get-away driver in connection with an armed robbery, by another, of an armored vehicle, during which one person was killed and another was wounded.
Nelson was released on parole on July 6, 1992. However, on November 8, 1996, he was again taken into custody on charges of violation of the conditions of parole, upon evidence that he had failed to obtain the approval of his parole officer for a change in his employment location and had failed to refrain from the use of controlled dangerous substances. At Nelson's parole revocation hearing, counsel stated that Nelson had completed both in-patient and out-patient drug treatment. As a result, he was released from custody pending a decision by the Parole Board. However, on December 19, 1996, he was again taken into custody for violating parole and was charged with the use of a controlled dangerous substance. On January 21, 1997, his parole was revoked for a term of twelve months, but his case was referred to the Mutual Agreement Program (MAP) for a substance abuse evaluation and possible placement in the MAP program. On June 4, 1997, the Parole Board continued Nelson's parole, effective June 26, 1997, on the condition that he complete a 180-day in-patient drug treatment program at Straight & Narrow. Nelson successfully completed treatment and was discharged from Straight & Narrow on December 23, 1997. Nelson claims to have been drug-free thereafter, and there is no subsequent evidence of abuse of his drug of choice, heroin.
On July 27, 1998, Nelson was again taken into custody on a parole violation after he allegedly failed to provide an adequate urine sample for drug testing. On November 18, 1998, a Board Panel determined to revoke Nelson's parole for a period of nine months. Nelson sought reconsideration of the Panel's decision and sentence, but, in a letter from the Parole Board dated June 14, 1999, relief was denied. The letter stated: "Please be advised it has been determined Mr. Nelson was recently granted a parole date to District Office #11 for June 16, 1999. Accordingly an appeal of the previous revocation decision is moot and will not be processed."
Nelson's parole officer, Steven Gosses, stated in a February 24, 2010 Parole Summary Recommendation for Discharge Report that, since Nelson's release from custody in 1999, he has appeared to abide by the conditions of his parole. All drug screens taken since his release have all been negative for illegal or unprescribed CDS and alcohol.
The subject has remained arrest free and has not received a criminal complaint or summons.
Gosses noted that Nelson's only contact with law enforcement resulted in a motor vehicle summons for operating a motorcycle without a helmet on April 2, 2009. In fact, the summons was for wearing an "unauthorized" helmet. Nelson pled guilty and paid fifty-four dollars in fines and court costs.
Nelson was placed on "annual status" on December 22, 2006, and, as of Gosses' February 2010 report, he was stated to be in "Phase IV (Advanced) status." ...