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Smith v. Tennessee Board of Paroles

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 25, 2019

DEAN SMITH
v.
TENNESSEE BOARD OF PAROLES

          Assigned on Briefs December 3, 2018

          Appeal from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 17-819-IV Russell T. Perkins, Chancellor

         This appeal concerns an incarcerated inmate's filing of a petition for writ of certiorari, claiming that the Tennessee Board of Paroles acted arbitrarily, fraudulently, illegally, and in excess of its authority in denying his request for parole. The trial court granted the petition but ultimately affirmed the denial of parole. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Dean Smith, Mountain City, Tennessee, pro se.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée Sophia Blumstein, Solicitor General; and Pamela S. Lorch, Senior Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, the Tennessee Board of Parole.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Frank G. Clement, Jr., P.J., M.S., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN W. McCLARTY, JUDGE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Dean Smith ("the Petitioner") is an inmate housed in the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee, where he is currently serving two concurrent life sentences with the possibility of parole for two first-degree murders he committed in 1981. He was a juvenile at the time of the offenses. The Petitioner has been considered for parole in recent years but was denied each time for various reasons by the Tennessee Board of Paroles ("the Board"). In February 2017, he was again denied parole due to the seriousness of the offenses pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-503(b)(2).[1] The Petitioner appealed the Board's decision and later filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Chancery Court for Davidson County when his appeal was denied. The trial court granted the petition for certiorari without objection from the State.

         The Petitioner argued that the Board acted arbitrarily, fraudulently, illegally, and in excess of its authority by

1. Applying parole standards adopted after his offense that have created a sufficient risk of increasing his punishment in violation of the Ex Post Facto clause of the federal and state constitutions.
2. Imposing a disparate and harsher punishment because of parole opposition from the victims' family members in violation of Tennessee parole standards, the Ex Post Facto clause of the United States Constitution, and the Eighth Amendment.

         In sum, the Petitioner claimed that the victims' family members continued participation in his parole hearings have increased his period of confinement. He asserted that changes in the law now require the Board to consider victim impact statements and allow victim participation in parole hearings when no such requirements were in place at the time of his conviction. He provided that other prisoners convicted of similar crimes were granted parole, in part, because of the absence of victim participation in their parole hearing. He requested permission to conduct discovery of parole grant rates to establish ...


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