This was a hard fought battle, with victims' groups and prosecutors fighting uphill and with misleading and misinformed editorials in all the leading newspapers of the state. Congratulations to those who worked so hard to defeat this ill-advised measure.
NOVJL's press release is quoted after the jump.
Sacramento - Traumatized victims' families celebrated today when SB 399 was defeated today in the Assembly by a vote of 36-34. The bill could have potentially freed teen killers in California sentenced to life as adults because of the extraordinarily heinous nature of their crimes. Sponsor Leland Yee has pushed for reconsideration tomorrow morning but the truth about his faulty arguments is finally beginning to be understood.
Not only would the bill risk millions in additional costs to the state, but it could have easily released some of the most dangerous killers in California history.
Victims' families watching today's debate expressed frustration as some Assembly members in debate on the floor today repeated the disinformation campaign that has come to characterize the "end JLWOP" (juvenile life without parole) movement. Some said, for example, that the USA is the only nation in the world to sentence some teens to life.
Not true, says Daniel Horowitz, President of NOVJL and prominent California Attorney, whose wife was brutally murdered by one of the JLWOP cases. A study called Adult Time for Adult Crime authored by Charles Stimson, available at www.Heritage.org, actually documents 11 nations globally that have life sentences available for the worst teens, including Australia, and cites other nations that do far worse by teens in terms of execution, forced sexual slavery, etc. The United States actually sentences its juvenile offenders to shorter sentences on average even than do European countries. And JLWOP in the United States only applies to the absolute most violent serial and mass murderers, repeat extremely violent offenders, and dangerous psychopaths.
Attorney Horowitz submitted a 50 page brief to Senator Yee that detailed all the ways that Juvenile offenders in California have more than adequate legal protections, and also covered the many legal mechanisms by which those rare cases of over sentencing or mis-sentencing could be corrected under the current system without risking freeing some of the worst cop-killers and predatory murderers in California history.
Other arguments made today on the Assembly floor on behalf of SB 399 included misinformation about the Sara Kruzan case, a prostitute who killed her pimp. Senator Yee, whose questioning by police for prostitution-related activity have been reported in the Sacramento Bee, has been extremely interested in Ms. Kruzan's case. But debate today failed to include the fact that Ms. Kruzan had already left her pimp, went off to find another one that she took up with, and then went back to murder her former pimp voluntarily.
Another case cited in support of SB 399 today was the "Anthony C" which NOVJL and other legal experts cannot even verify the existence of. Anyone tried and sentenced as an adult should be in the public record. The Anthony C case has never been documented to exist by groups advocating for public safety and against SB 399.
The JLWOP cases were also referred to on the floor today as "children", but Maggie Elvey, widow of Ross Elvey brutally beaten and killed by two teens during a robbery, wanted to make sure that Assembly members were clear that SB 399 only have applied to 16 and 17 year olds in the state. And most of these few cases of teens sentenced to life were after having committed some of the worst crimes in California history.
Murder victims' families have begged not to be put through the literal torture of a lifetime of parole hearings when the offender should clearly never be released given their extreme criminality. NOVJL, in partnership with California victim groups such as Crime Victims Action Alliance and Crime Victims United of California, and many District Attorneys, were extremely grateful to the majority of Assembly members who voted to keep the public safe and defeated SB 399.