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August 20, 2012

California legislature passes intriguiging and novel resentencing bill for juve lifers

As reported in this local piece, which carries the seemingly inaccurate headline "California Senate sends Jerry Brown bill to parole some juvenile murderers," it appears that California's Governor now has on his desk a novel bill to permit some serious juvenile offenders to seek resentencings.  Here are the (somewhat unclear) details from this press account:

California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would allow some juvenile murderers the chance to get out of prison on parole. The state Senate approved Senate Bill 9 on a 21-16 vote today, the bare minimum necessary for it to clear its last legislative hurdle. Brown has until the end of September to act on it. [As reported in this other press account, the bill "was approved by the Assembly on Aug. 16 on a 41 to 34 vote." 

The bill by Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco would allow some murderers to petition for a hearing to have their sentence changed to 25 years to life, allowing them to later petition for parole. Several conditions would apply: They would have to have been under 18 when they committed a murder that got them life in prison with no possibility of parole. They also would have to have already served at least 15 years of their sentence, and wouldn't be released until they had served at least 25 years....

Some criminals would not be eligible -- those with a history of violence before the murder conviction, those who had tortured their victims, and those who had killed a firefighter or law enforcement official.  [This AP story reports there are 309 offenders California serving LWOP for juvenile crimes, but does not suggestion how many might be able to benefit from SB9]

Yee said the bill would only apply when offenders showed remorse and when "it is a very clear case where an individual has made amends and demonstrated that they are not going to re-offend."...

"It is absolutely outrageous that were going to release these little psychopaths out into the streets to murder again," said Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from Alpine.

The full text of what appears to be the passed version of this bill is available at this link.  The bill text shows it was first introducted back in December 2010, and it includes a number of intricate provisions that make it difficult for me to assess quickly whether and how many juvenile lifers in California are likely to benefit from this novel piece of legislation if (and when?) it becomes law.

I would be especially grateful to hear from any folks working on these issues in California concerning whether enactment of this bill could be a very big deal.  I also would love to hear opinions from anyone who can sort through just how this new law is suppose to operate and can assess whether this intriguing resentencing rule is a sensible way for a state to consider reconsindering juve LWOP sentences.

August 20, 2012 at 10:56 PM | Permalink

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Comments

So much for the idea that "LWOP means LWOP." Abolitionists have been promising that, when the DP ended, we could rest assured that those sentenced to LWOP would never, ever get out. Kent and I have pointed out that the lefties could and would renege on this as soon as they could get away with it. Now we have Exhibit A. And anyone who thinks this is the end of it is as naive as those who fell for the line that Exhibit A would never show up.

The only good part is that it's another nail in the coffin of Prop 34. Who's stupid enough to fall for the same LWOP-and-no-less line twice in three months?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 20, 2012 11:12:43 PM

Yee said the bill would only apply when offenders showed remorse and when "it is a very clear case where an individual has made amends and demonstrated that they are not going to re-offend."...

Wow. Mind reading and future forecasting of the behavior of impulsive, crazed killers, at one time. Plus San Fran values by the author of the bill.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 21, 2012 3:03:19 AM

Bill, blame the Supreme Court, not the anti D/P crowd. It was the Court who said can't have automatic live w/o parole for juveniles; they have to have at least a chance for release. This legislation simply is a follow up.

Posted by: not a lawyer 2 | Aug 21, 2012 10:50:19 AM

not a lawyer 2 --

Wrongo. California does not have mandatory LWOP for juvenile murderers, so this legislation is not required by the SCOTUS decision. The reason for it is just what I said -- abolitionists never meant it when they promised that when we got rid of the DP, we'd have no-never-not-on-your-life LWOP. Nor are they going to stop with this -- why should they?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 21, 2012 12:03:03 PM

Hey Bill, underneath your comment is the assumption that those pushing LWOP reform are the "abolitionists" – by which I assume you mean death penalty abolitionists. I don't think that's the case. There may be some overlap, but they are mainly different groups of people – and my sense is that they don't get along all that well. They see their interests as ultimately antagonistic rather than concordant.

Posted by: anonymous | Aug 21, 2012 2:48:25 PM

Hate mongering on Senate Bill SB 9 and ending JLWOP with a ray of hope after 25 years of proving themselves (see the comments) begins. Be ready to send your support for SB 9 to Governor Brown as this heads to his desk for signature in September. Every one of us is 'more' than the worst act we have ever committed and hope to be seen as more. This bill requires that juveniles sentenced before 18 show this over and over for an extended two and a half decades with constant review. One really has to wonder about the hearts and minds of the ilk of Kent Sheidegger and friends (Bill Otis, et al.) who would oppose this tiny ray of hope for redemption.

Not a lawyer, and never a prosecutor.

Posted by: Babysoft | Aug 21, 2012 3:12:25 PM

Babysoft --

"One really has to wonder about the hearts and minds of the ilk of Kent Sheidegger and friends (Bill Otis, et al.) who would oppose this tiny ray of hope for redemption....Not a lawyer, and never a prosecutor."

Go ahead and wonder. Since I use my real name, my litigation record is easily available, if you want to do more than "wonder."

P.S. Without those evil prosecutors, Jerry Sandusky would still be out there to do his, uh, thing. Better to have those wonderful defense lawyers trying to put him back on the street, dontcha think?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 21, 2012 3:48:02 PM

"Some criminals would not be eligible -- those with a history of violence before the murder conviction."

A plain reading of the enrolled bill shows this not to be accurate. Lack of prior violence is one of several categories that entitle otherwise death eligible juvenile murderers to a resentencing hearing. "Availing himself or herself of rehabilitative, educational, or vocational programs . . . Or showing evidence of remorse" is another. Who is not going to meet that?

What the pro SB9 commentary overlooks is that SB9 pulls the family of murder victims back into court for yet another sentencing hearing where the question of LWOP vs. 25 to life is asked at the 15, 20 and 25 year mark. Then, if relief has been granted, the parole hearings begin.

Since all persons actually serving LWOP for a juvenile murder had this question answered against them at the initial sentencing (see PC 190.5), these additional hearings simply serve as executive clemency dressed up as required due process or a response to Miller. SB9 is not a response to Miller because Yee has been working on it for 3 years and PC 190.5 already gave judges the right to impose 25 to life for any otherwise LWOP or death eligible murder by a juvenile.

Let robust executive clemency commute LWOP for deserving juvenile murderers serving LWOP. Do not cause massive emotional injury for the victims' families by lengthy, expensive and repetitive sentencing hearings that will look like a death penalty mitigation hearings at the 15, 20 and 25 year mark for every juvenile murderer who did not get convicted of the torture murder special or the killing of a peace officer special.

Posted by: David | Aug 21, 2012 6:10:12 PM

...the issue addressed by Senate Bill 9 is essentially the same issue which was by the Supreme Court of the United States addressed when as a sentencing option for defendants less than eighteen years of age it precluded the imposition and/or the implementation of capital punishment - that is, the neurological immaturity of the juvenile brain....those intracerebral elements which deter impusivity and which impact judgement are not until approximately twenty-one years fully developed....science provides a grounded model for metamorphoses within the law....Senate Bill 9 reflects in principle and in practice one such metamorphosis....in peace....

Posted by: K. Bandell | Aug 21, 2012 10:00:58 PM

...spelling error in last comment - that is, impusivity should read impulsivity....
...sorry....

Posted by: K. Bandell | Aug 21, 2012 10:02:54 PM

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