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Bill to Effectively Abolish Juv LWOP in Cal. Passes

Senate Bill 9, which would effectively abolish life without parole for anyone who commits his murder a day short of his 18th birthday, passed the California Assembly today.  This article in the Sacramento Bee describes the bill as allowing "some offenders to petition for a resentencing hearing if they were minors when they committed a murder that landed them in prison with no chance of parole."  In reality, though, the criteria are so open-ended that only a small number of categorically excluded murderers will not be able to qualify.

California already complies with Miller v. Alabama.  There is no mandatory LWOP for juveniles.  In all cases, the judge has discretion to impose life with parole rather than life without parole for a juvenile convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances.  The following passage from the story indicates the kind of dishonest arguments made for this bill:

Nearly one of every two California youth convicted of murder did not actually kill the victim but were lookouts or were participating in another felony, such as robbery, when the homicide took place, according to Yee.
Note it says "convicted of murder" not "sentenced to life without parole."  The former is irrelevant and the latter would be false.  But a lot of people don't get the distinction.

The bill now goes back to the Senate, where its passage is nearly certain, and then to Gov. Brown, who rarely misses an opportunity to go softer on thugs.


Nice isn't it? The governor and Democrats getting together to help murderers and inflict torment on victims' families. These criminal-coddlers have richly earned the contempt of decent people.

Sadly, because our legislators are both heartless and spineless, as prosecutors we will have to be the ones to recommend 25 to life over LWOP to spare the victims families the pain of the resentencing hearing that will occur at the LWOP killers at the 15, 20, and 25 year mark under SB 9. Yee should be ashamed of himself for not having the courage to stand on conviction and advocate for what he really wants, repeal of LWOP for juveniles. Such a bill would be wrong but it would be more intellectually honest and humane than SB 9.

What counts for LWOP? Does the Bill forbid 100 year sentences?

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