California Dept. of Corrections v. Morales, 514 U.S. 499, 4 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court

their crimes before it was enacted violates the Ex Post Facto Clause. We conclude that it does not.


California twice has convicted respondent Jose Ramon Morales of murder. In 1971, the body of respondent's girlfriend, Gina Wallace, was found in an abandoned medical building. She had been shot in the head, neck, and abdomen; her right thumb had been amputated and her face slashed repeatedly. A bloody fingerprint near the body matched respondent's. A jury found respondent guilty of first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

While serving his sentence at the State Training Facility in Soledad, California, respondent met Lois Washabaugh, a 75-year-old woman who had begun visiting inmates after gaining an interest in prison reform. Ms. Washabaugh visited respondent on numerous occasions, and respondent kept in contact with her through correspondence. Respondent's letters eventually expressed a romantic interest in Ms. Wash-abaugh, and the two were married some time after respondent's release to a halfway house in April 1980.

On July 4, 1980, Ms. Washabaugh left her home and told friends that she was moving to Los Angeles to live with her new husband. Three days later, police officers found a human hand on the Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles. Ms. Washabaugh was reported missing at the end of July, and fingerprint identification revealed that the hand was hers. Her body was never recovered. Respondent was subsequently arrested and found in possession of Ms. Wash-abaugh's car, purse, credit cards, and diamond rings.

Respondent pleaded nolo contendere to the second-degree murder of Ms. Washabaugh. He was sentenced to a term of 15 years to life, but became eligible for parole beginning in 1990. As required by California law, see Cal. Penal Code Ann. 3041 (West 1982), the Board of Prison Terms (Board) held a hearing on July 25, 1989, to determine respondent's

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