Officials Erred by 3 Years on Aris’ Parole Date : Prison: Release of woman who killed her husband after years of abuse is set for December, 1998, instead of 1995.
State parole officials on Wednesday said they miscalculated the parole date set for convicted murderer Brenda Aris, who killed her husband after enduring years of abuse.
Aris has been given a parole date of Dec. 13, 1998, said Theodore Rich, executive officer of the Board of Prison Terms.
Rich said Aris will be eligible to shave 18 months off that release date for good behavior if she maintains a clean prison record between now and 1997.
On Tuesday, Rich had said Aris was given a parole date of Dec. 18, 1995. He now says that figure was wrong because of a calculation error made by a records clerk at the California Institution for Women at Frontera.
“There was a tremendous amount of interest in this case,” Rich said. “Everybody wanted to be as helpful and as accommodating as possible, and an error was made.”
Rich said the official record of the hearing will reflect the correct release date for Aris.
Aris is the first convicted murderer in California to win leniency based on a claim that she was battered by her husband before killing him.
Gov. Pete Wilson, after reviewing the record in Aris’ case, last year commuted her minimum sentence from 15 years to life to 12 years to life.
The Board of Prison Terms, however, decided to set Aris’ sentence based on the original minimum of 15 years, which is a longer sentence than Wilson’s action would have permitted but a shorter one than most second-degree murderers receive. If she is released in 1998, she will have spent 11 years in custody, which was reduced from 15 because of good conduct in prison.
Aris’ lawyer, Chee Davis of Los Angeles, said Wednesday that this is the second time her client’s hopes for an early release have been raised and then dashed by the state.
Davis said Aris was told in 1993 after Wilson’s decision that she was to be released immediately, but after packing and giving away some personal belongings she was stopped at the prison gates and kept in custody.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Davis said. “I don’t understand why this is so difficult for people who have all the information. They have the data. Brenda doesn’t. I don’t.”
Aris’ mother, Iona Lane, sobbed when told that her daughter would have to spend more time in prison than she had been led to believe.
“My daughter’s been through enough,” Lane said in a telephone interview.
Davis said the release date suggests that the parole board disregarded Wilson’s recommendation that Aris be given leniency because of the abuse she suffered from her husband.
But James Nielsen, chairman of the Board of Prison Terms, said the board’s three-member panel did take Aris’ claim of battered women’s syndrome into consideration.
He said it is unusual for inmates to receive a parole date at their first hearing, as Aris did. And he said the panel knocked two years off the minimum sentence of 17 years that it normally would have given an inmate convicted of second-degree murder.
Finally, Nielsen said, the panel decided to allow Aris to reduce her remaining time in prison by half, rather than only one-third, for good behavior.
“There is no question that the battered women’s issue was a very significant factor,” Nielsen said.
The panel’s decision is subject to review by Wilson, who can let it stand or modify it. The parole board also may change its decision between now and the conclusion of Aris’ term, Nielsen said, which could result in her getting out of prison earlier.
Times staff writer Virginia Ellis contributed to this report.