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Fiona Ma on SB 399

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Tim Redmond at the San Francisco Bay Guardian is very upset with California Assemblywoman Fiona Ma for voting against the bill to effectively abolish life without parole for the very worst 17-year-old murderers.  We have a different take, of course.  We will put aside our disagreements with Ms. Ma on other issues and give her a Profile in Courage award on this one.  The pressure from the soft-on-crime crowd was intense, and the major newspapers had lined up, repeating Senator Yee's vignettes without verification.  Here is the statement from Ms. Ma's office, as quoted in the SFBG story:

I did not come to my decision on SB 399 easily - it's legislation that I have carefully reviewed and considered for months. While I acknowledge that some juveniles in the correctional system may have the capacity to be rehabilitated after decades of being incarcerated, I feel that we cannot reset a defendant's clock 25 years later expecting a victim's family will reset their hearts.

I know our District Attorneys do not take life sentences lightly. These crimes are limited to first and second degree murder offenses with a special circumstance which include the most troublesome crimes: murdering a peace officer, murdering to achieve a hate crime, committing a murder that's especially heinous, murdering for financial gain, and murdering while escaping lawful custody.

All of these sentences were handed down after murder victims' families had the chance to speak out and address the court on the impact of these murders. To re-open these closed cases to new sentencing hearings would re-open the wounds already suffered by murder victims' families, forcing these victims to re-visit and re-live cases they were told had been closed forever. I think it would be unfair to these victims' families to have to re-live these horrific crimes and for that reason I felt compelled to oppose this legislation.

There are already deliberative checks in place throughout the system where prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors, and particularly our judges, have the ultimate discretion to choose a lesser juvenile sentence when sentencing a juvenile murderer. In addition, the Governor has the power to grant pardons and commute sentences. This already provides an avenue for juveniles to seek extraordinary relief if justice calls for it.

While I appreciate Senator Yee's intent to create opportunities to rehabilitate juvenile criminals, these particular crimes rise to a standard in which we need to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

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That such a common sense position, and one with empathy for the right people, is a "Profile in Courage" says a lot about the morality of the left-wing.

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