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Gov. Jerry Brown cancels killer's parole

Paul Crowder was convicted in the 1991 shooting death of CV High student Berlyn Cosman.

November 08, 2011|By Veronica Rocha and Jason Wells veronica.rocha@latimes.com, jason.wells@latimes.com

Gov. Jerry Brown has revoked a 2010 decision to grant parole to a man who in 1991 shot and killed a 17-year-old Crescenta Valley High School student on prom night, essentially upholding the same decision made by his predecessor.

In the three-page letter issued Nov. 4, Brown overturned a June 2010 state board decision to grant parole to 39-year-old Paul Crowder — who is serving 15 years to life, plus four years for killing Berlyn Cosman — after determining that he “currently poses a danger to society if released.”

The same parole decision had been reversed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the Los Angeles County Superior Court overturned his ruling and sent it back for Brown’s consideration.

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While the issue was being settled, a second state parole board decision in October also sided with Crowder after Berlyn’s father, Mark Cosman, wrote in favor of his release. That letter angered other family members who said Berlyn's father did not speak for the family.

They have since been waging a letter-writing campaign to urge Brown to also overturn the second state parole board's decision.

“It's a difficult situation, but I still feel like I have to fight for Berlyn,” sister Morgan Cosman said in an interview Tuesday.

Prosecutors had argued against Crowder’s release at his parole hearing, saying he hasn’t taken responsibility for killing Berlyn. They also claimed that Crowder took just one anger management class in prison.

Crowder argued in court that his gun accidentally fired after a prom night party at the Sterling Crown Suites Hotel in Anaheim.

Brown wrote in his decision — first reported by the Orange County Register — that because Crowder lacks an understanding of his actions, “there is no assurance that he does not remain prone to violence if released back into society.”

He said Crowder hasn’t rehabilitated and has been involved in drug sales and passing gang communications while incarcerated.

With Brown already rejecting the first parole board decision, Morgan Cosman said the family was hopeful he would maintain his position.

“The governor is definitely on our side,” she said.

Brown's office would likely review the second parole decision in the coming months, said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor.

Victim’s rights attorney Todd Spitzer said he is helping Morgan Cosman draft a letter to Brown, outlining their opposition to Crowder’s release.

“We are enthusiastically optimistic … but we are not taking anything for granted,” he said.

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