Off Beat: Parole ruling reversed
Parole hearings for convicted killers are often controversial in California, and when parole is granted, it can cause a storm of controversy.
But the case of Harjot Singh Takhar was little noted, even last month, when a state appeals court reversed a Sutter County judge who sided with Takhar in his bid for freedom.
Takhar didn't receive the parole he sought from the state Board of Parole Hearings. Instead, he found a more sympathetic forum in the Sutter County Courthouse.
Takhar pleaded no contest to the double murder of James and Barbara Bono in the early 1990s. His co-defendant, Manpareet Gil, whose motive was revenge on the Bonos because, according to court papers, "he thought they had stolen his dog," was found not guilty in a jury trial, even though Takhar testified Gil was the gunman and did the shootings.
After the killings, "Takhar and Gill then went to their friend's house for a party," according to a state appeals court ruling late last month.
Takhar received two concurrent terms of 15 years to life in prison, with the possibility of parole.
The Board of Parole Hearings denied his petition for release in 2010. Takhar took his case to a Sutter County judge in a writ of habeas corpus.
Last year, the judge, Brian Aronson, ordered the parole board to hold a new hearing and approve Takhar's release, unless there was new evidence that Takhar was a threat to public safety.
Late last month, the state appeals court in Sacramento reversed Aronson.
"The board acknowledged Takhar's outstanding work history, educational efforts, participation in self-help programs and his exemplary volunteer work with the supportive care services," the appeals court said. "However, the board found Takhar's mental state and current attitude toward the murders weighed against finding him suitable for parole. Takhar continued to display a pattern of willfully violating rules consistent with his pattern of willfully violating the law prior to the murders."
The appeals court, in reviewing Aronson's ruling, said it was "difficult to comprehend the point made by the trial court in its order that Takhar's inability to obey the rules in prison is irrelevant to his ability to obey the laws on parole."
The judge "did not see that Takhar's breaking of rules in prison he deemed unimportant is a moral defect and character deficiency that was also manifest in Takhar's aiding and abetting Gill to commit an armed robbery and, ultimately, murder against two people Takhar knew Gill held a grudge."