September 3, 2007
California sentencing commission complications
This article from the Sacramento Bee, entitled "Doubts on sentencing plans: Governor isn't likely to sign either of two bills creating panels, aide says," highlights that a sentencing commission is still not a certainty in California. Here are the basics:
With the legislative session heading into the home stretch, an ambitious plan to overhaul California's criminal sentencing structure is facing dim prospects in the Governor's Office. Two bills are circulating in the Legislature that would create a California sentencing commission with the ability to change the length of prison terms. But a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested it is highly unlikely that either commission bill would get signed into law.
"We're open to debate, but the governor has serious reservations about what's being proposed in the Legislature," Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said in an interview. "He thinks that final authority (on sentencing laws) should be with elected officials who are accountable to the people."
State Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, wrote one of two sentencing commission bills now pending in the Capitol and the one that legislative staffers believe has the best chance of making it to the governor's desk. She said forming a sentencing commission represents perhaps the state's last and best hope to prevent a specially empaneled three-judge federal court from slamming a population cap on California's massively overcrowded prison system.
September 2, 2007
Fascinating juve clemency development in Colorado
A helpful reader sent me this link to a recent press release from the office of Colorado Governor Bill Ritter announcing that "he has established a seven-member Juvenile Clemency Advisory Board to review clemency and commutation requests by juveniles who were tried as adults and sentenced to state prison." Gov. Ritter issued Executive Order B-009-07 to create the Juvenile Clemency Board, and here are snippets from its statement of purpose and mandate:
The purpose of the Board is to make advisory recommendations of executive clemency to the Governor, specifically for persons who were juveniles tried as adults and are serving sentences(s). This Board shall advise the Governor on the screening of applications for juveniles offenders, tried as adults, requesting or petitioning for a commutation of sentence....
The Juvenile Clemency Board may make favorable recommendations for clemency to serve the interests of justice as determined by the Juvenile Clemency Board and make favorable recommendations for commutation of sentence to:
i. Recognize exemplary rehabilitation and institutional behavior;
ii. Aid offenders suffering from catastrophic or terminal medical, mental or physical conditions as determined by the Juvenile Clemency Board;
iii. Reward acts of heroism by inmates who prevent risk or injury to staff, citizens, or other inmates;
iv. Address sentencing disparities and correct inequities within the Colorado criminal justice system.
Another challenge to prosecutors' capital discretion
This local article from Kentucky discusses another new effort to challenge the death penalty by attacking the broad discretion exercised by prosecutors in capital cases:
The most recent possible challenge to Kentucky’s death penalty came in the form of a motion in Hardin Circuit Court earlier this month to have Kentucky’s death penalty ruled unconstitutional. Attorney Vince Yustas, who represents convicted murderer Michael St. Clair, said his argument against the death penalty never has been made in Kentucky. He claims commonwealth’s attorneys across the state have “unbridled discretion” when deciding whether to pursue the death penalty. “Whether or not to seek the death penalty rests entirely in the hands of individual commonwealth’s attorneys,” Yustas said in a memorandum filed Aug. 20 in Hardin Circuit Court.
As detailed in posts linked below, similar arguments have been advanced recently in a number of other settings: