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In Re andrea Mims

February 9, 2012


APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County. Jorge C. Hernandez, Judge. (Super.Ct.No. RIC541704)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ramirez P.J.




Andrea Mims, the defendant, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus to seek review of the decision by the Board of Parole Hearings (the Board) to deny her release on parole. Defendant was serving a sentence of 26 years to life following her conviction for murdering her fifth husband. The Board's decision, which credited defendant for her exemplary behavior in prison, was based on the determination that defendant lacked insight into the causative factors relating to the crime, her unstable social history, and the heinous nature of the offense. The Board decided that she posed an unreasonable risk of danger until she can confront her motivations and admit them. The superior court granted the defendant's petition and the People appeal.

On appeal, the People argue that the Board's decision was properly supported by some evidence and that the superior court improperly reweighed the evidence in granting the defendant's petition. We reverse.


a. Facts Regarding the Commitment Offense.

On May 14, 1981, defendant killed Robert Sand, her fifth husband, at their home in Rancho Mirage. The victim had been stabbed and struck in the head with a blunt instrument. Defendant informed law enforcement officials who investigated the homicide that her wheelchair-bound husband was killed by intruders. Subsequently, the defendant informed investigators that after praying, she recalled more information, and related that she had removed the knife from her husband's body, washed it, and hid it in the living room; she found a board in the bedroom covered with blood and washed it, as well.

In another statement, the defendant reported taking two sleeping pills and some muscle relaxant medication on the evening of the crime, and retiring to a guest room. She was awakened by the victim's cry for help, and went to his bedroom, where she observed him lying on the floor next to the bed. In this version, she described going to his aid only to find that he was faking injury; he grabbed her and paddled her with a board, demanding that she participate in a sexual fantasy, but she refused. She grabbed the board from the victim, and the victim grabbed a knife, threatening to kill defendant. She grabbed the knife from the victim and stabbed him numerous times.

In post-arrest interviews, defendant related a history of sexual mistreatment by the victim, to whom she was married for five months, as the reason for killing her husband.

b. Procedural History.

Defendant was arrested in March 1982, and charged with murder (Pen. Code, § 187), with a knife-use allegation. (Pen. Code, § 12022, subd. (b).) Defendant pled not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Following a jury trial, defendant was found guilty of first degree murder and the weapon use allegation was found to be true. Defendant was also found to be sane. She was sentenced to state prison for the aggregate term of 26 years to life for the substantive crime and the enhancement.

Defendant was received by the Department of Corrections (now the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) on May 10, 1984. Defendant's minimum eligible parole date was August 22, 1998. On July 29, 2009, the Board conducted a subsequent parole suitability hearing. Along with numerous letters of support and certificates of completion of various educational and self-help programs, the Board considered the psychological evaluations of Stephen Pointkowski, Ph.D. and Linda S. Barnard, Ph.D. Dr. Barnard concluded defendant presented little or no risk if released on parole. Dr. Barnard diagnosed defendant as suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to defendant's reports of multiple rapes and domestic violence. Dr. Barnard assessed defendant's risk as minimal, based on defendant's behavior in prison, the fact that defendant had taken full responsibility for her actions, and had worked hard to learn all she can about how she became vulnerable to her situation.

Dr. Pointkowski agreed that defendant conceivably satisfied threshold criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD at an earlier point in her life, but recognized the possibility that defendant might have attempted to depict herself as suffering from PTSD in an attempt to mitigate responsibility for her offense. Dr. Pointkowski noted that defendant presented no symptoms of PTSD, including no anxiety symptoms, when she was assessed. Dr. Pointkowski assessed defendant's risk of violence to be in the low to moderate range.

However, Dr. Pointkowski concluded defendant's continued efforts to rationalize and mitigate culpability for her commitment offense indicated a lack of insight into the factors that led to the crime. In this regard, Dr. Pointkowski noted that defendant's alleged vague recollection of struggling for her life with the victim, her purported response to the victim's scream and finding him dead, and then supposedly blacking out, were collectively suggestive of questionable honesty, rationalization, and/or efforts to mitigate culpability. He stated, "While she overtly blamed herself for the instant offense, this was viewed as superficial. Accordingly, she cannot be seen as possessing adequate insight into the underlying causal factors."*fn2

The Board denied parole for three years, finding defendant unsuitable for release. The Board's decision was based on: (1) defendant's past and present mental state and past and present attitude toward the crime; (2) lack of insight into causative factors; and (3) the commitment offense, which was especially cruel. The Board also pointed to defendant's history of ...

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