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.