COA judge: Parole board 'should do better'

March 20, 2015

A man who killed no one but who’s been in prison for almost 40 years for a felony murder conviction was entitled to a more thorough parole board review than one based on a 13-year-old psychological evaluation, a Court of Appeals judge wrote Friday.

The appeals panel, however, affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief for Robert L. Holleman, finding that any such errors – including forbidding Holleman from appearing at his public parole hearing – were harmless.

Holleman, who was involved in a 1976 robbery in which another perpetrator shot and killed a victim, appeared at a nonpublic facility hearing in 2010 on his parole request that immediately preceded his public parole hearing in Indianapolis, according to the record.

After his parole bid was denied, Holleman sought post-conviction relief alleging, among other things, that the parole board should have conducted a new psychological or community investigation instead of relying on one from 1997.

“A majority of the (Parole) Board voted to deny Holleman parole because of ‘Nature and Seriousness of the Crime,’” Judge Melissa May wrote in the main opinion joined by Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik. “Denial for that reason was not error.”

Concurring in a separate opinion, Judge Michael Barnes wrote that while Holleman wasn’t denied due process, “common sense and an overall aura of the concept called ‘justice’ calls for a special look at this type of prisoner.

“Holleman is a lifer. That is, he was sentenced to an indeterminate term of life in prison with the possibility of parole before the revisions to our sentencing scheme in 1977 and 1978 took effect and abolished such sentences. As we were reminded in oral argument, there are less than 200 of these prisoners remaining in the Department of Correction. Most are over sixty years of age, and more than a few are considerably older than that.

“The point is that, in my opinion, when one of these prisoners comes to a parole hearing, the least the parole board could do would be to have a psychological report on the prisoner that is relatively recent. ... I do think the parole board should do better than it did here.”

The case is Robert L. Holleman v. State of Indiana, 45A03-1403-PC-90.



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