Paul Elias of AP has done some more digging on the question of how Stanworth ever got released. The long version of his article in on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer site. (Some other sites are carrying truncated versions.)
Stanworth's biggest break came in 1972 when the state Supreme Court struck down California's death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment. As a result, Stanworth, Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan and 104 other Death Row inmates had their death sentences converted to life in prison.
At that time, however, the harshest penalty for first-degree murder was life with the chance of parole, rather than life without parole. So Stanworth was allowed to apply for parole, which he did unsuccessfully four times between 1974 and 1978.
Then in 1979, he hit pay dirt. The state's parole board gave Stanworth a date for release, saying he could leave prison sometime in 1990 after serving 23 years, four months and nine days. The board said he was entitled to release for five main reasons, according to yet another Supreme Court ruling in 1982 considering his parole:
-- Excellent personal progress in prison, including earning an associate degree in data processing.
-- No major disciplinary problems.
-- Positive psychologist reports
-- Realistic parole plans, aided by a $12,000 educational trust fund set up for him and $3,000 in a personal savings account.
-- And, finally, he was granted release because of "a lack of prior serious criminal history or history of violent conduct."
What? How did that last one get in there? CDCR does not know.
CDCR spokesman Luis Patino said Friday that because the case is so old it may take weeks to obtain Stanworth's complete parole file.
Parole boards had more leeway in those days to grant parole than they do now, legal experts say.
Regardless of how badly the parole board botched this case, the wrongly decided court cases remain a "but for" cause of Stanworth's latest killing. If A shoots B, and B dies as the doctors are trying to save him, A is still culpable for murder even if the doctors were negligent. Similarly, the erroneous court decisions in this matter are a necessary cause of the recent killing, even if someone else in the chain of decision might have prevented it.