Convicted murderer chronicled in Times series closer to freedom
Kurt Streeter (Los Angeles Times) | August 2, 2012
Convicted murderer John Paul Madrona, profiled in a Times series chronicling life inside a state prison hospice, has taken a step toward freedom after a two-person panel from the parole board pronounced him ready to leave.
Madrona, a former Carson-area gang member who murdered a bystander in 1993, no longer poses “a danger to society or a threat to public safety if released from prison,” said Board of Parole Hearings Commissioner Jack Garner, who along with his fellow panelist noted the positive strides the convict has made while in confinement.
Wednesday’s decision, Garner said, “is one we feel you deserved. You’ve changed.”
The ruling, made in a wood-paneled conference room at the California Medical Facility prison, was the most important hurdle for Madrona to pass in his bid for freedom — if he’d been denied he probably would have had to wait three years for another hearing, and possibly several years more. But additional hurdles remain.
The panel’s decision now faces review by the state’s full parole board to determine if any mistakes were made during the hearing. Gov. Jerry Brown also can weigh in. If the decision makes it past Brown’s desk, Madrona will probably have to wait about six more years before he leaves prison, the added time partly caused by demerits, such as failing to show up for a prison job.
As he’d done for much of Wednesday’s three-hour hearing, the 36-year-old Madrona remained calm, though his eyes filled with tears.
This was his first parole hearing and the result was something of a surprise because murderers are not usually granted parole on their first attempt.
“It’s extraordinarily rare,” said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the Board of Parole Hearings. “In my two years on this job, that’s the first time I’ve heard of anyone getting that.”
Madrona, a Philippine national who will probably be deported upon release, was whisked away after the hearing, leaving comment to his attorney.
“There’s still a long road ahead,” Rich Pfeiffer said. “But the question is, can this man be more good to society on the outside than on the inside? The man we see today is clearly someone who will do more good on the outside.”
Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. David Dahle, on hand for the hearing, was less sanguine.
“I’m disappointed,” said Dahle, who argued that Madrona did not fully realize the damage he had caused and should remain in prison. Dahle also said demerits Madrona received, the last about four years ago when he took a small amount of food from his job in the prison kitchen, should have stalled his bid for freedom.
Photo credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times
Tags: California Medical Facility prison, Carson gang, John Paul Madrona, parole, state prison hospice