No One More Than John MacKenzie, May He Rest In Peace

To call the New York State Parole Board’s handling of the lives of human beings a failure of monumental proportions is to give the Board credit it doesn’t deserve. It is a political cesspool, an affront to every sentencing judge who does his best to impose a lawful and justifiable sentence. It is above reason. Above law. Above integrity. Above everything.

And now, it killed John MacKenzie.

MacKenzie’s story was told here and by the New York Times.  He was as appropriate a human being for parole as could be, and there was absolutely no legitimate dispute that he should have been paroled.  This is why Kathy Manley obtained a ruling from Dutchess County Supreme Court Justice Maria Rosa holding the Parole Board in contempt for its irrational refusal to grant MacKenzie parole, after 40 years in prison and 16 years of parole eligibility, without any justification other than the original offense of conviction for which he was sentenced by the court.

But the Parole Board, unrestrained by anything, decided that they didn’t like that sentence. They wanted MacKenzie to stay in prison for as long as they decided. Forever, if that’s their choice, because they are under no constraints to do anything more than whatever the fuck they feel like doing for any reason or no reason. Because they can, as long as they throw in the right words.

Yesterday, Kathy sent me an email with a press release:

John MacKenzie, whose repeated parole denials focused attention on the extreme cruelty of the New York State Parole Board, died in an apparent suicide in Fishkill Correctional Facility Wednesday following his tenth parole denial after more than 40 years in prison. John’s case had recently been featured in a June 13, 2016 New York Times editorial, which stated, “No one disputes that Mr. MacKenzie has been a model prisoner with a perfect record… The effectiveness of [parole reform] efforts … will be determined by whether they result in releases for obviously qualified people like John MacKenzie.”

And what of Justice Rosa’s holding the Parole Board in contempt? Well, first they put on another dog and pony show, where they told the judge to kiss their asses and denied parole yet again. Then they appealed the contempt ruling, which meant MacKenzie continued to sit in prison and rot away. Because no one, no judge, no law, tells the Parole Board what to do.

Judge Maria Rosa of Dutchess County Supreme Court said the parole board’s denial in John’s case was improper, and stated, “This case begs the question, if parole isn’t granted to this petitioner, when and under what circumstances would it be granted?” She found the Parole Board in contempt for violating the court’s order to hold a new hearing for Mr. MacKenzie that correctly considered all the factors as required by law. The Parole Board then held another hearing in front of some of the same biased commissioners who had previously defied the court order. This hearing resulted in a denial. The Parole Board’s appeal of Judge Rosa’s decision was going forward at the time that Mr. MacKenzie apparently took his life.

Don’t blame the judge. The law doesn’t provide any means of judicial oversight for the Parole Board. Judges have struggled for years to find some way to rein in these political appointees who engage in one of the worst official abuses of power possible.

Blame The Governor, Andy Cuomo,* who appoints these smug hacks to the board. Blame the legislature for its failure to correct the law so that judges can order the parole board to follow its mandate. Blame the hacks appointed to the parole board for their flagrantly flouting the law.

But you won this time, Parole Board. You won’t have to come up with some bullshit reason to deny John MacKenzie parole an 11th time. He killed himself. Congratulations.

There will be a protest against the Parole Board for what happened here.

Parole reform advocates will protest John MacKenzie’s death by parole board cruelty on Monday, August 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the Parole Office in Albany, 97 Central Avenue.

Will the Parole Board give a damn? Why would they start now? They are untouchable, and neither Cuomo nor the legislature has the guts to do anything about it.

*Perhaps Andy is too busy fighting for affirmative consent laws and preventing people on the sex offender registry from playing Pokemon Go. With such important issues to be addressed, maybe he has no time for the Parole Board and the lives of people like John MacKenzie.

19 thoughts on “No One More Than John MacKenzie, May He Rest In Peace

  1. Franklin Michaels

    Sounds like an appropriate situation for invoking criminal contempt. And then let the chips fall as they may.

    1. SHG Post author

      For what? Doing what the law permits? Why didn’t the dozens of lawyers and judges who have addressed this failing over decades think of what you popped off the top of your head. Damn, they’re all stupid compared to you.

      1. Franklin Michaels

        No, I’m the idiot for failing to pick up on your not so subtle suggestions as to how deeply/outrageously the game in New York is rigged in favor of the State as a general proposition – e.g., New York Civil Practice Law and Rules § 5519 (a) (1) . . . (a) Stay without court order [where] (1) the appellant or moving party is the state or any political subdivision of the state or any officer or agency of the state or of any political subdivision of the state . . . By example, compare, FRCP 62(e) which exempts the Feds only from the requirement of posting a bond.

        More broadly § 5519 (a) (1) reads like an invitation for unconscionable abuse in any situation where either time is is the essence or – as you say – the underlying agency action can given a fresh case number.

        Time to get back on my turnip truck.

        1. SHG Post author

          Among a variety of other reasons. If you must assume at all, assume that an intractable problem is an intractable problem for a reason, not because the bar and judiciary of New York couldn’t think of the obvious solution.

  2. Enjoin This!

    How interesting. I wanted a situation which suited the phrase “pustulant excrescence.” But to avoid potential defamation, I should be perfectly clear that I DO NOT consider Tina Stanford to be a “wretched, suppurating fistula.”

    1. SHG Post author

      SHG will write about it and perhaps let some folks in the area know about the protest who might otherwise not know. But SHG isn’t in Albany, so he won’t be at the protest. Will you go to the protest? Will you write about it? Will you do anything other than leave an assholish comment?

      There’s a reason Kathy emailed me and not you. Can you guess what that reason might be?

      1. losingtrader

        “There’s a reason Kathy emailed me and not you. Can you guess what that reason might be?”

        So I could add to the list of SHGism’s, of course.
        Thanks , Kathy.

    1. SHG Post author

      The Board of Parole consists of 14 members. Each member is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate for a six-year term. One member is designated by the Governor to serve as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Division.

      The only politician whose ass they cover is the Governor’s.

  3. pooshard

    Maybe you could finish this sentence:

    “This is why Kathy Manley obtained a ruling from Dutchess County Supreme Court Justice Maria Rosa finding that the Parole Board’s refusal to grant MacKenzie parole, after 40 year in prison and 16 years of parole eligibility, without any justification other than the original offense of conviction for which he was sentenced by the court .”

    The ruling found … what?

    1. SHG Post author

      Jeez, I really blew that sentence. Thanks for pointing it out. And, of course, my post about that ruling is in the link.

  4. AMC

    Saying “it’s my fault” but denying you intended to kill the officer is not taking responsibility; its admitting as little as you can but leaving a superficial level of acceptance of responsibility.

    From the Poughkeepsie Journal:

    MacKenzie has served as a model inmate, according to court papers. Though he says he was on drugs and did not intend to shoot the officer, MacKenzie has taken responsibility for his crimes, according to the papers, saying “it’s my fault, 100 percent my fault.”

    1. SHG Post author

      And he was sentenced by a judge for that crime. And he served that sentence. And he was denied parole by an unaccountable board who operates as a superjudge, deciding that the sentence imposed by the judge isn’t good enough because they didn’t like the way he explained what happened, truthful though it may have been, and so they shook their collective heads and said, “nah.” His mea culpa 40 years later wasn’t good enough for you? Well then, he deserves to die.

  5. John

    Why was this savage even considered for parole? The guy that escaped upstate, Sweat, is serving a LIFE sentence without parole. Too bad he didn’t meet the same fate his partner in crime, Matt did.

    Murderers should have to sit on Old Sparky, unfortunately, that is not the law in NY.

    May the officer he murdered rest in peace.

    1. SHG Post author

      Because that’s the law. It applies to “savages” as well as simplistic blithering idiots. Even you might have a chance, though it seems unlikely you would figure out what to do with it.

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