Tuesday, September 30, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Appellate court ruling backs parole for Woodland killer

By
From page A6 | June 23, 2013 |

Aaron Miller of Woodland was 22 months old in November 1983 when he was knocked off a bed and shaken by his caregiver when he wouldn't stop crying. The toddler was in a coma for two days before dying from his injuries. A parole appeal by his killer, Christopher Michael Fowler, 51, was upheld last week. Courtesy photo

A state appellate court decision has paved the way for a Woodland man who killed his girlfriend’s toddler son in 1983 to be released from prison.

Christopher Michael Fowler, 51, has served 29 years for the death of 22-month-old Aaron Miller, who knocked the boy off a bed, shook him and threw him to the floor when he wouldn’t stop crying.

Fowler later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

A state Board of Parole Hearings panel found Fowler suitable for release at his 13th hearing in November 2010, but that decision was later overturned by Gov. Jerry Brown, who noted that Fowler’s lack of remorse made him a “danger to society.”

“The utter inhumanity of Mr. Fowler’s crime coupled with his inability or unwillingness to understand, own or achieve some credible level of insight tells me that there is a substantial risk of danger to the public were he to be released from prison,” Brown wrote in an April 7, 2011, letter.

But a three-justice panel from the 3rd District Court of Appeal disagreed, issuing a 19-page ruling last week that effectively reversed Brown’s decision.

“Our review of the record reveals no evidence connecting any arguable lack of insight to the conclusion that defendant would present a risk to public safety if released on parole,” states the ruling, authored by Presiding Justice Vance Raye.

“Defendant’s positive behavior in prison, his lengthy participation in seemingly every available rehabilitative program and volunteer program while incarcerated, and his statements to psychologists and the board do not establish any likelihood defendant would pose a risk to public safety if released on parole.”

Associate Justices M. Kathleen Butz and George Nicholson concurred with the decision. Brown’s office is reviewing the case to determine whether to appeal the ruling before the California Supreme Court.

“We are disappointed,” said Jonathan Raven, Yolo County chief deputy district attorney. “Over the years, I have walked into prisons across the state with baby Aaron’s family where we have sat across the table at parole hearings of the man who killed Aaron. Yesterday I had the difficult task of telling Aaron’s aunt about this news. Needless to say, this was very painful for her to hear.”

The aunt, Marcie Honkanen, said she has already penned a letter to Gov. Brown, urging him to pursue the matter before the higher court.

“He’s our only prayer,” said Honkanen, whose family has attended each of Fowler’s parole hearings to oppose his release. While she understands the state’s prisons are overcrowded, “I’m afraid for the public’s safety. (Fowler) has never, ever apologized. He has never, ever shed a single tear.”

According to court records, Fowler had been baby-sitting Aaron and his 3-year-old sister Christy while his girlfriend — the children’s mother, Tina Miller — worked on Nov. 1, 1983. Authorities said Fowler, who was sleep-deprived, high on marijuana and stressed from an argument with Miller the night before, put the children down for naps and attempted to sleep himself.

The children woke him a short time later, with Aaron crying from his bedroom. An agitated Fowler walked into the boy’s room, knocked him to the floor with his hand, then shook him and dropped him to the floor while telling him to be quiet, court records show.

Aaron went still, his skin turning blue. His grandmother Betty Thomas arrived at the home, and, over Fowler’s protests, took the boy to the hospital, where he lay in a coma for two days before succumbing to his injuries. Doctors compared the injuries to a fall from a three-story building.

Although he committed several rule violations during his early years in prison, Fowler has since participated in numerous self-help, work experience and educational programs, earning an associate degree in psychology in 2010, the appellate court ruling noted. His most recent psychological evaluations concluded Fowler was remorseful for his actions and unlikely to reoffend.

“When the basis for the governor’s determination lacks any evidentiary support and conflicts with the evidence in the entire record, it is arbitrary and capricious. It is not rational,” the ruling states. “Here, the record supports the board’s finding that there is no evidence defendant lacks insight and understanding of his murder of Aaron which renders him a danger to public safety if released.”

Fowler currently is housed at the Correctional Training Facility near Soledad, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s online inmate directory. A tentative release date has not yet been set.

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Man on a mission: transform Davis

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Poppenga outlines ambitious agenda

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Cool Davis Festival is très chill

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Sanity phase begins in Daniel Marsh trial

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

    Council looks at granny-flat revision

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Standing In: Is the therapy for them, or me?

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A2

    California exhausts initial firefighting budget

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Brown allows new local development financing tools

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Find the perfect club or organization to join

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C2 | Gallery

     
    California becomes first state to ban plastic bags

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Forum examines Props. 1 and 2 on November ballot

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    DCC welcomes students with free lunch

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Gibson House hosts plant sale and garden event

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Register to vote by Oct. 20

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Assembly candidates will be at Woodland forum

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Pets of the week

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    California approves landmark ‘yes means yes’ law

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

     
    Try out basic yoga on Thursday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Number of wheels: How many bicycles do you have in your household?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C5 | Gallery

     
    Emerson gives away old textbooks

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Downtown history tour planned in October

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Fraud Awareness Fair set Oct. 15 in West Sac

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    UCD, University College Dublin will cooperate on food, health

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Accessibility technology on exhibit at fair

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Covell Gardens breakfast benefits Komen Foundation

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Put your hoes down and celebrate the harvest

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Panelists discuss raising children with special needs

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    DCC hosts fair-trade gift sale on Oct. 11

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Woodland PD seeks volunteers for ViP program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    DMTC makes musical theater accessible to everyone

    By Bev Sykes | From Page: C9 | Gallery

     
    Snapshot: A night out with the neighbors

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C10

    Take home a wreath from Davis Flower Arrangers’ meeting

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Davis school names reflect interesting history

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: C12

    Snapshot: Plenty of places to park it

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C14

     
    Snapshot: Dive into Davis fun

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C15

    Snapshot: Kick garbage to the curb

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C16

     
    Snapshot: Sounds like a party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: C17

    .

    Forum

    He seems happy at home

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    It takes two to lambada

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Archer has the right stuff

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    Get on your bikes to meet Davis’ greenhouse gas goals

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Marsh case shows need for ‘Maupin’s Law’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    The great bedtime conspiracy

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    They’re best-prepared to lead

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Vibrant and hard-working

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Sports

    Davis golfers get teaching moments in forfeit win

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    ‘Playoff game’ or missed chance? Either way the Aggies move on

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Devils move atop league standings with win

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Only 15 months out of UCD, Runas off to LPGA Tour

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Two Junior Blue Devil squads emerge victorious

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Woodland artist hosts event at her new studio

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    I-House film series continues with ‘Monsieur Lazhar’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    ‘Art Farm’ exhibition will open in Woodland

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Pleasant Valley Boys cool down Picnic in the Park

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Acclaimed guitarist Peppino D’Agostino to play The Palms

    By Landon Christensen | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Danelle Evelyn Watson

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Michael Allen Hanks Baxter

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Anne Elizabeth Elbrecht

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: B5

     
    Comics: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7