MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A California Senate Bill has passed the Senate Public Safety Committee, that could allow for the early release of death row inmates, or life without parole inmates.
SB-94, if passed into law, could have their cases reviewed and potentially resentenced if they committed their crime before June 5th, 1990, and spent at least 20 years of their sentence in prison.
Advocates for the bill want this passed to give those prisoners’ cases a second review. They would be seen by a current judge and bring 33 years or older cases, and have them reviewed under the laws that we have today.
However, some local district attorneys want the wording in the bill to be read carefully. Senate Bill 94 was introduced by Democratic Senator Dave Cortese of Santa Clara County.
“People who devoted themselves to rehabilitation will one day see a parole board and prove that after decades of incarceration, they can be reunited with their families in some way,” said Daniel Trautfield.
Trautfield is the project director for the non-profit, Felony Murder Elimination Project, which pushes to get rid of the death penalty, and life sentences in the state. His organization helped co-author the bill.
“What this simply does is look at some cases that might not meet our standard as it stands today,” he said.
Trautfield points to the bill’s text here where it says, “Judges should have the opportunity to take a second look at… The consideration of… Childhood trauma, mental illness, and other factors.”
“For those women in the 1980s, no one in the courtroom was ever allowed to hear that a woman had been an abuse survivor,” said Trautfield.
However, some law enforcement officials, feel strongly about this bill, including Madera County District Attorney Sally Moreno.
“We already have a lot of laws in place that allows people to have their sentences revisited and reviewed,” she said in response to the bill.
Moreno feels the bill’s language is not specific enough, and worries about those who would be affected most by the prisoner’s release.
“How about the next of kin? Is it fair to them? They sat through these trials, or they say with those prosecutors and talked about this resolution,” Moreno said.
Moreno wants to have a discussion about the terms of this bill, but most importantly, wants to be allowed to bring down as harsh of a sentence as the law allows for those who commit these crimes.
“This life without the possibility of parole is the last honest sentence, it’s not surprising at all that they’re coming for that,” said Moreno.
The bill passed the Senate Public Safety Committee in a 4-1 vote but they referred it to the Senate Appropriations Committee which will look at it for its financial impact.
If it’s improved there, then it can make its way to the Senate floor, where it could be voted into law.