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Introducing the 'Dangerous Quadriplegic' Doctrine

From the same profession that brought you the "fertile octogenarian" rule centuries ago comes a new one: the "dangerous quadriplegic" doctrine.

Via Lowering the Bar, today I came across Martinez v. Board of Parole Hearings (PDF), an opinion issued yesterday by the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Third Appellate District. Martinez was a violent felon serving time in prison. Three years into his 157-year sentence, Martinez was knifed by a fellow inmate, rendering him a complete quadriplegic. Due to his physical condition, Martinez asked the Board of Parole Hearings to recommend that his sentence be "recalled and that he be granted a compassionate release from custody" under California law.

BPH denied Martinez's request, however, finding among other things that despite his physical condition, "some evidence" (mainly his violent past and some verbal threats) showed that Martinez could be a threat to public safety if released from prison. The Court essentially ruled that such a threat was conceivable, but that the case had to be "returned to BPH because it did not explicitly articulate" the facts on which it based this factual finding.

The best part of the opinion comes when the majority and the dissenting judge square off on what I am hereby labeling the "dangerous quadriplegic" doctrine. In support of the doctrine, the majority opinion rolled out a string cite to four cases case showing that:

quadriplegics can commit violent crimes. (Quadriplegic Suspect -- Police: Pulled Trigger with String in Mouth (Sept. 9, 1987) Newsday [“A quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair thought his bride of two weeks was cheating on him and killed her by firing a pistol using a string in his mouth”]; Yaro, Quadriplegic Con Man Faces Court Again -- in Murder Case, L.A. Times (May 7, 1984); Gettemy, Armed Robbery Guilt Admitted by Quadriplegic, L.A. Times (Oct. 31, 1972); People v. Taibi (1991) 174 A.D.2d 585, 571 N.Y.S.2d 88 [quadriplegic tries to arrange for hit man to kill former business partner].)

This led the dissent to fire back that:

with the help of a good Internet search engine, you can prove anything, including that pigs can fly. (See, e.g., Pigs Really Can Fly . . . With the Help of a Trampoline (Dec. 5, 2009) Telegraph Co. UK [as of Dec. 16, 2009]; When Pigs Fly, They Go 1st Class (Oct. 29, 2000) The Washington Post, A04 [as of Dec. 16, 2009]; Rowland, Sure Pigs Fly -- But is that Art? (Jan. 21, 1995) San Diego Union-Tribune, p. B3 [as of Dec. 16, 2009].)

The dissent then added this classic line to our nation's jurisprudence:

Four stories in the country in 38 years is darn few. Indeed, the stories are written and reported because the commission of serious crimes by quadriplegics is so rare and bizarre that they are newsworthy. Thus I am willing to take the risk that petitioner Martinez will fire a pistol with a string in his mouth.

And so it was that on this day, April 7, 2010, the "dangerous quadriplegic" doctrine was born.

Posted by Bruce Carton on April 7, 2010 at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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