Parker Chamberlin has changed in the past 17 years, according to a public defender.
The 33-year-old who appeared in Kern County Superior Court Wednesday is a far different person than the teenager who took a kitchen knife and stabbed his mother to death, Assistant Public Defender Peter Kang said as he argued for Chamberlin's release.
Chamberlin is not a psychopath, the attorney said. He said his past "is written in stone" and nothing can undo the brutal death of his mother, but he should be given another chance at freedom.
"He's a human, and he's changed," Kang told the court.
Deputy District Attorney Nick Lackie, however, argued Chamberlin's past isn't just written in stone — it's written in blood. He still poses a risk to society, and no one has been able to explain why he entered the bedroom of his sleeping mother and stabbed her 35 times.
Lackie said Chamberlin was a model student before he killed his mother, and it's not surprising he's been a model prisoner since his incarceration. He's the same person, and his life term in prison should remain unchanged, the prosecutor said.
Chamberlin is back in Kern County due to changes in the law and after state prison officials recommended he be resentenced based on his good performance in custody.
He's currently serving 26 years to life in prison.
Judge Michael G. Bush, presiding over the resentencing hearing, has several options.
He can decide Chamberlin should continue serving his sentence, in which case he'll be eligible for parole in 2023. Alternatively, he can strike a weapons enhancement that was part of Chamberlin's prison term and knock one year off his sentence.
Lastly, Bush could resentence Chamberlin to probation, meaning he would be released from prison but remain under supervision.
The hearing will resume Monday with the defense calling its two remaining witnesses and the prosecution calling its witnesses, including the detective who investigated the murder.
Among the witnesses called by the defense Wednesday were a psychologist who recently examined Chamberlin and counselors who worked with him at Valley State Prison in Chowchilla.
Dr. Michael Musacco testified he interviewed Chamberlin for four to five hours over a period of two days. In addition, he reviewed recent reports from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and those submitted by the District Attorney's and Public Defender's offices.
Chamberlin has shown no evidence of a violent disposition or anti-personality disorder during 17 years of close observation while in prison, according to the psychologist.
"You can't fake 'good' for 17 years," he said.
Chamberlin does not possess psychopathy, Musacco testified.
He defined psychopathy as a set of personality traits in which a person has a superficial, glib way of looking at the world and relationships with other people. A psychopath reads and manipulates people for his own benefit at the expense of others and feels no remorse.
As horrible as Chamberlin's crime was, Musacco testified, psychopathy does not account for it.
The question of motive remains unanswered.
"I can't come here and tell you I understand why he did what he did," Musacco testified.
Eric Roberts, former program director for the Offender Mentor Certification Program at Valley State Prison, said he worked with Chamberlin and a few dozen other inmates for eight to 10 hours a day during an 18-month period.
Roberts testified Chamberlin was committed to the voluntary program, which provides inmates with the training and certification to become alcohol and drug counselors.
"He was able to maintain and demonstrate the utmost in ethical standards," Roberts testified.
For example, he said, Chamberlin supported inmates who were being abused or bullied by other inmates. Chamberlin comforted them and convinced them to report the abuse.
During their discussions, Chamberlin took full responsibility for his crime and expressed remorse, Roberts testified. He said Chamberlin never asked him for any favors, and never came across as manipulative.
Roberts testified he believes Chamberlin is a suitable candidate for release.
Chamberlin was 15 when he killed his mother, Torie Lynn Knapp, 40, at her Rosedale area home around 3 a.m. on July 3, 2001.
Knapp, her bed and two pillows were covered in blood, and her nude body was found lying on the floor next to the bed, according to court filings. A blood-smeared kitchen knife with a blade about 6 inches long was located nearby.
Chamberlin at first told authorities he encountered an intruder attacking his mother. He later admitted to stabbing her, and said it might have been because she owed him money.
His grandparents afterward described Chamberlin as manipulative and concerned only about himself.