One of the worst anti-victim, soft-on-crime bills looks as if it will be passed by the California Legislature under the guise of criminal justice “reforms,” Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward told the Globe Wednesday.
Senate Bill 94 by Sen. Dave Cortese (D-Santa Clara), “would give the state’s worst, most heinous murderers, who have been sentenced to death or life without the possibility of parole (LWOP), the opportunity to have their sentences invalidated and make them eligible for parole,” Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation wrote in April at the Globe.
“If this bill passes the Legislature and Governor Newsom signs it, they are telling you that there is no crime so violent, so depraved, or so heinous that grants perpetual protection of our society,” DA Ward said. “This bill is a sham and an affront to the people of California.”
Why would any state lawmaker, sworn to uphold the California and United States Constitutions, support this lawlessness as Democrats in the California Legislature are?
The Legislature has tried to pass zero bail, despite many District Attorneys and Assistant District Attorneys warning how anti-criminal justice this concept is. One bail agent told the Globe that legislators want to kill the (bail) industry, while making it seem like judges retain discretion for bail, but they don’t because of the language about defendants’ “ability to pay.”
According to DA Ward, who also is President of the California District Attorneys Association, SB 94 is “the continuation of a social experiment run amok.”
He’s talking about so-called criminal justice “reforms” which primarily serve to undermine the rule of law in California.
Besides taking another swipe at California’s legal system, Ward said this bill is a “travesty to victims’ families.” Ward said victims and their families are told that life without parole means “no leniency, and especially in a death sentence.” But this bill completely undermines “no leniency.”
Senate Bill 94 would allow an individual serving a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of parole due to special circumstance murder to petition the court to recall the sentence and re-sentence to a lesser sentence if:
• the offense occurred before June 5, 1990
• they served at least 25 years in custody
DA Ward also said the California Legislature is purposefully creating a vague law which will tie judge’s hands. “This is chipping away at the legal system,” DA Ward added, “and will release the worst of the worst murderers.”
SB 94 allows a judge the authority to resentence life-without-parole murderers 25-to-life, which under this bill, makes them eligible for parole having already served at least 25 years in prison.
Ward also noted that SB 94 is “another unfunded mandate,” with no additional funding for county DAs and prosecutors. Ward said these murderers will come back into court which will be expensive, and cost prosecutors additional time and funding, for cases they long ago tried and prosecuted for murderers they thought were sentenced to life in prison. “How is this sailing through the Appropriations Committees?” he asked.
Ward also warned that the bill says “we as prosecutors no longer can write our own conditions.” The prosecutor decides which crimes to charge, not the judge.
Michael Allen Hamilton: Murdered wife with a shotgun in 1981. Sentenced to death in 1982, appealed. Currently serving life without the possibility of parole.
Ryan Michael Marshall: Sentenced to death in 1986 for 1985 execution style murder of 58-year-old woman during home invasion. Currently serving life without the possibility of parole.
Joseph James DeAngelo: Murdered 13 people in California in 70’s and 80’s, including Professor Claude Snelling in Visalia. Known as the Golden State Killer. Currently serving multiple life without parole sentences.
Steven Walter Gomez: Murder with special circumstances for 1985 Visalia murder and sexual assault of woman. Conviction result of cold case DNA hit. Currently serving life without parole.
When this devastating information was provided to the Legislature in May, Ward said they “watered SB 94 down so it’s not so aggressive” through amendments. Those now ineligible under SB 94 are:
- The individual was convicted of first degree murder of a peace officer engaged in performance of their duties or of a peace officer or former peace officer in retaliation for the performance of their official duties;
- b) The individual was convicted of first-degree murder as the actual killer of three or more people; or
- c) The individual was convicted of a sexual offense committed in conjunction with the homicide for which the petitioner is serving an LWOP sentence. Defines “sexual offense” as rape, sodomy, lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 years of age, rape by instrument; and oral copulation.
“The beneficiaries of this measure, if passed, will be criminals convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances,” Rushford wrote. “These are murderers who killed multiple victims or killed in concert with a rape, robbery, kidnapping or torture. While it would seem unthinkable for any legislator, let alone a group of them, to want their names on a bill that would allow murderers like these to go free, bear in mind that Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, Alameda County DA Pamela Price and California Attorney General Rob Bonta all support setting murderers free after 15-20 years in prison.”
“Is it too much to ask of survivors to have truth in sentencing in court?” Ward asked.
The co-sponsor of the bill, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, explains their support:
“SB 94 aims to reach a population locked into extreme sentences from decades ago that are inconsistent with our present-day sentencing practices, taking mitigating factors into account.”
The Ella Baker Center offers no consideration of the victims of these heinous murderers. They highlight the “reforms to restore judicial discretion” by Legislature and support “allowing judges to consider mitigating factors at sentencing,” rather than the prosecutors. “Although individuals sentenced to LWOP have no path to parole today, many have exhibited decades of exemplary behavior, participated in extensive positive programming, have come to understand the contributing factors which led to their incarceration, and have devoted themselves to becoming positive members of society,” the Ella Baker Center concludes.
Notably, the entire staff and Board of Directors at the Ella Baker Center list their pronouns.
Convicted murderers are supposed to be confined and denied certain freedoms under the authority of the state as punishment for their crimes. If they demonstrate “exemplary behavior” as a result of their incarceration, good for them. But it does nothing to bring back the victims they murdered, or provide solace to their families.
The opposition to SB 94 was provided by the San Diego Deputy District Attorneys Association:
“By enacting Proposition 115, the voters of this state have told us they want to keep the worst of the worst in prison where they belong. If they feel differently, Penal Code section 1385.1 should be amended by them in a future initiative or legislatively referred ballot proposition. Dragging these murderers back into court will be prohibitively expensive, tie up judicial resources, and inflict further pain upon their victims. By creating presumptions favoring the release of these murderers, SB 94 will create unjustifiable risks to public safety.
“We strongly urge you to consider the unintended consequences to the families of victims and the public who potentially will lose faith in the judicial process and the finality of judgments.”
SB 94 is co-sponsored by Felony Murder Elimination Project, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Families United to End LWOP (FUEL), California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Sister Warriors Freedom Coalition, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), Center for Employment Opportunities, Drop LWOP Coalition and Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
The goal of Felony Murder Elimination Project is to eliminate the felony murder rule from California law.
- New Study Reveals BIG Divides Between Governors DeSantis & Newsom on Individual Liberties, etc. - November 30, 2023
- Oakland City Council Council Should Have Called for a Ceasefire – in Oakland - November 29, 2023
- Gov. and Mrs. Newsom Make an Unappetizing Thanksgiving Video - November 27, 2023