Baby killer convict granted parole; Gov's decision overturned


It's rare, but a court has reversed a governor's decision to deny parole to a lifer.

Marcie Honkanen is outraged. Christopher Fowler, 51, convicted of killing her nephew "Baby Aaron" back in 1983, is about to be paroled after three decades in prison.

In the small quiet town of Woodland near Sacramento, the then-22-year-old shook his girlfriend's son violently, dropping him to the floor twice to stop his crying.

A California appellate court this week cast aside Governor Brown's 2011 decision to block Fowler's parole, and sided with the Parole Board to release him.

"I'm not only disappointed but I'm in fear for the public. Chris Fowler is a baby-murderer," said Honkanen.

In reviewing the case and denying parole, Governor Brown believes Fowler is a substantial risk to society.

But the court felt Fowler's prison record showing him to be a good prisoner participating in rehabilitative programs and psychiatric evaluations that deemed him a low risk of re-offending weren't given adequate weight.

Law professor Mike Vitiello hasn't reviewed the case intimately, but knows that by law parole boards cannot just look at the crime.

"One of the things that they can consider is how horrible the crime was, but that alone cannot be sufficient because there are many people who have committed violent crimes who don't represent a continued risk to the public," said Vitiello, a University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law professor.

Crime victims group are upset that an initiative that won voter approval giving governors the authority to block the paroles of serious criminals is being weakened by the courts.

"We're hoping that we won't see much more of this. But it does undermine the governor's authority ultimately, and he is supposed to the final say when it comes to parole," said Christine Ward, executive director of the Crime Victims Action Alliance.

Baby Aaron's aunt wrote a letter to Governor Brown this week and hopes he keeps Fowler in prison.

Governor Brown's office says it is still reviewing the case. If the governor wants to intervene, he'll have to ask the California Supreme Court for a hearing and be granted one.

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