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State parole board pushes for wrongful death dismissal

A Philadelphia police officer's death has shaken up the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. The officer was shot and killed after work by a man the wrongful death claim says should have been in prison.

A flurry of staff and policy changes at the parole board followed the fatal shooting and the lawsuit filing that claims the board and its chairman were guilty of negligence. The parole board, through the Attorney General's Office, recently filed a request to have the civil suit dismissed because the officer's death was not foreseeable.

The motion also urged the court to drop the chairman of the parole board from the defendant list. The argument claims the official had no direct involvement in any decisions made about the accused shooter's release.

The 23-year-old man charged with the murder had been imprisoned on a weapons charge less than two weeks before the shooting. The wrongful death suit states the parole board and its chairman freed the former prisoner without a required electronic monitor and after a failed drug test.

The parole board allowed the shooter to be placed on special probation to enhance the board's image, according to charges in the lawsuit. The civil action claims probation and parole violators purposely were set free to skew figures for recidivism. A jury trial and unspecified damages are sought.

Since the policeman's death and after a storm of criticism, the state parole board made changes.

The board terminated three people who were connected to the alleged murderer's case. Officials promoted the use of GPS trackers instead of electronic ankle bracelets. The board also added policies to contact judges about some offenders nearing prison release.

Every effective wrongful death case includes evidence of proven harm through negligence. A judge will now decide whether a lawsuit can move forward that says the police officer's death was caused by a systemic breakdown of the parole system.

Source: articles.philly.com, "Pa. parole board seeks to have suit by slain officer's family dismissed," Dec. 23, 2012

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