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Cal. Juv. LWOP Bill Defeated

Wonders never cease. Just when I thought the California Legislature was completely hopeless, the Assembly Public Safety Committee actually lived up to its name and defeated SB 399. This is the Yee/Romero bill to recall the sentences of 16 and 17-year-olds sentenced to life-without-parole for first-degree murder with special circumstances (e.g., committing rape and then killing the victim).  The bill, and others like it, have been promoted through an extensive, misleading campaign referring to "children" sentenced to life without parole. Are 16 and 17-year-olds "children"? Try standing up in front of a class of high school juniors and saying, "Good morning, children," and see what reaction you get.

Under Penal Code ยง 190.5(b), the judge already has the discretion to sentence a 16 or 17-year-old special-circumstance murderer to 25-to-life instead of LWOP. So, the ones in prison for LWOP are only the ones whom a judge determined at the time of sentencing shouldn't be eligible for parole. The families of the victims should not have that finality taken away.

Congrats to Maggie Elvey, who worked very hard to defeat this ill-considered bill.


Dr. Epstein makes a powerful argument that our modern concept of adolescence is quite artificial.

Victims, prosecutors, law enforcement, and all those concerned with public safety can sleep easier tonight that Life without Parole sentences still mean what they say in California. We are all so grateful to Maggie Elvey and Harriet Salerno from CVUC, Daniel Horwitz whose wife was murdered by one of these cases and who put up the informational website sb399.com, and to all at Crime Victim Action Alliance and other friends who worked to help us. For more information see www.jlwopvictims.org and stay connected because we are facing similar bills in other states and Congress and Senator Yee will likely be back next year!

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