Court issues ruling in sex offender case
CARSON CITY (AP) – The Nevada Supreme Court decided Thursday to scrap an earlier ruling involving a prisoner convicted of sex crimes, and issued a new decision that gives the inmate a partial break in his bid to ease his sentence.
The high court ruling in the case of Robert Stockmeier, serving time at the state prison in Lovelock, held that a prison psychological review panel didn’t break the law when it heard accusations of physical abuse that hadn’t been charged previously.
When Stockmeier was interviewed later by the “psych panel,” he admitted to the crimes for which he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with possible parole, but denied the new, uncharged acts. He was imprisoned for sexual assault on a victim under age 16.
Justices said a review of convictions and even accusations that don’t lead to formal charges is legal because the panel’s purpose is “to ensure that prisoners have been rehabilitated and no longer pose a threat to members of society.”
“Restricting the information the psych panel can consider impairs this purpose,” the court said.
But while the panel can hear such allegations, the Supreme Court said the state’s open meeting law still must be followed. Stockmeier said the law was broken when the panel didn’t inform him that his victim and the victim’s family would attend and testify against him.
After the session, panel members refused to certify Stockmeier as eligible for parole. Without the certification that he’s not a high risk, Stockmeier couldn’t take the next step of actually applying for a parole from one sentence to another.
The Supreme Court said the certification requirement doesn’t apply in cases such as Stockmeier’s, in which convicts try to get paroles from one term to another one. Instead, the court said the requirement applies only when an inmate might actually be released from prison.
The case now returns to District Judge Richard Wagner of Lovelock for further action in line with the high court opinion.
In the earlier decision, the Supreme Court said that Stockmeier had been “ambushed with serious allegations” and wasn’t able to cross-examine his accusers or call witnesses on his own behalf, and lacked the right to appeal the psych panel’s decision against him.