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Dellay v. Rhode Island Parole Board

Superior Court of Rhode Island

August 19, 2016

LANCE DELLAY, Petitioner

         Providence County Superior Court

          For Plaintiff: Noah J. Kilroy, Esq.

          For Defendant: Paul A. Carnes, Esq.


          VAN COUYGHEN, J.

         Before this Court is the Rhode Island Parole Board's (Respondent, Parole Board, or State) motion for summary judgment[1] on a petition for postconviction relief. Petitioner Lance Dellay (Petitioner or Mr. Dellay) opposes the State's motion for summary judgment and has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment.

         The Parole Board denied Mr. Dellay's application for parole on October 21, 2013. Thereafter, Mr. Dellay filed a petition for postconviction relief on January 7, 2015, arguing that the Parole Board violated his procedural due process rights and is requesting that this Court remand the case to the Parole Board for a new hearing. The Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to G.L. 1956 §§ 10-9.1-1, et seq. and Rule 56 of the Rhode Island Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure.

         I. Facts

         The parties entered into an agreed statement of facts, which are summarized as follows: On September 30, 1994, Mr. Dellay was sentenced after being convicted by a jury of second degree murder and larceny over $500 (P1-1992-3293A[2]). (Joint Stipulation of Undisputed Facts, ¶ 1.) The Court sentenced him to sixty years at the Adult Correctional Institution, with fifty years to serve, and ten years suspended with probation. Id. at ¶ 2. Mr. Dellay also received a sentence of ten years to serve for the larceny conviction to run concurrent with the murder sentence.

         On October 21, 2013, the Parole Board unanimously denied Mr. Dellay's request for parole after a hearing. Id. at ¶¶ 3-4. The minutes of the Parole Board's meeting state, "The Board votes to deny parole. The reason for the denial is due to the violent nature of Mr. Dellay's offense and the length of his sentence. We will see him again in October 2016." Department of Corrections, Inmate Parole Information (Parole Board's Minutes). Petitioner filed a petition for postconviction relief on January 7, 2015 challenging the sufficiency of the content of the Parole Board's written decision.

         II. Standard of Review

         Postconviction relief cases are civil proceedings; thus, Rule 56 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure is applicable to the present case. Doyle v. State, 122 R.I. 590, 593, 411 A.2d 907, 909 (1980). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the trial judge must review the evidence "in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Long v. Dell, Inc., 93 A.3d 988, 995 (R.I. 2014). During this inquiry, the trial judge "must refrain from weighing the evidence or passing upon issues of credibility." DeMaio v. Ciccone, 59 A.3d 125, 130 (R.I. 2013) (citing Doe v. Gelineau, 732 A.2d 43, 48 (R.I. 1999)). Summary judgment is appropriate when there "'is no genuine issue of material fact to be decided . . .'" Id. at 129 (quoting Pereira v. Fitzgerald, 21 A.3d 369, 372 (R.I. 2011)).

         In this case, Petitioner and Respondent have stipulated to the pertinent facts. Therefore, there are no genuine issues of material fact to be decided. See DeMaio, 59 A.3d at 130. Thus, the matter is ripe for summary judgment.

         Postconviction remedies are set forth in §§ 10-9.1-1, et. seq., and provide that "'one who has been convicted of a crime may seek collateral review of that conviction based on alleged violations of his or her constitutional rights.'" Brown v. State, 32 A.3d 901, 907 (R.I. 2011) (quoting Lynch v. State, 13 A.3d 603, 605 (R.I. 2011)). "[P]ost-conviction relief is available to a defendant convicted of a crime who contends that his original conviction or sentence violated rights that the state or federal constitutions secured to him." State v. Laurence, 18 A.3d 512, 521 (R.I. 2011) (quoting Otero v. State, 996 A.2d 667, 670 (R.I. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted)). The applicant bears "'the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that [postconviction] relief is warranted . . .'" Hazard v. State, 64 A.3d 749, 756 (R.I. 2013) (quoting Anderson v. State, 45 A.3d 594, 601 (R.I. 2012)). Our Supreme Court has held that postconviction relief is an appropriate vehicle for inmates who challenge decisions of the Parole Board. State v. Ouimette, 117 R.I. 361, 363, 367 A.2d 704, 706 (1976). However, the Superior Court's review of a Parole Board's decision is limited to whether or not the petitioner's due process rights were violated. Id.

         III. Parties' Arguments

         Mr. Dellay essentially sets forth two arguments as to why the Parole Board's written decision violated his due process rights under both the Rhode Island and United States Constitutions: First, the decision did not address an individualized risk assessment, which he argues is mandatory pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 13-8-14.1. Second, the decision failed to sufficiently state the grounds and supporting factors in its written decision denying Mr. Dellay's application. Petitioner argues that the failure to provide sufficient grounds for the denial deprives him of a factual basis by which he is informed of his shortcomings. Petitioner also argues that failure to provide sufficient grounds prevents this Court from being able to competently review the Parole Board's decision.

         The State contends that the Parole Board did not violate Mr. Dellay's due process rights because the Parole Board's decision fulfills statutory and due process requirements as articulated in Bernard v. Vose, 730 A.2d 30, 32 (R.I. 1999) ("due process only entitles the parole applicant an opportunity to be heard and to be informed in what respects the applicant falls short of qualifying for parole"). Further, the State contends ยง 13-8-14.1 does not require the Parole Board to reference an individualized risk assessment in its decision. The State also argues that the minutes of the meeting sufficiently set forth the Parole ...

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