Lawmakers OK letting minors appeal life terms after 15 years
The state Senate on Monday sent Gov. Jerry Brown a measure that would allow minors sentenced to life in prison to apply for a new sentence after 15 years if they show remorse and take steps toward rehabilitation.
State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), a child psychologist, said his bill is justified because the brains of minors have not fully developed, so they make bad decisions that do not necessarily reflect the way they will act as adults.
"What this bill will do is provide youngsters who are in prison for the rest of their lives on a [life without parole] sentence a second chance at life," Yee said during a heated floor debate. "The youngster has to demonstrate that he has accepted responsibility, he has been rehabilitated, has gotten an education, shown remorse."
The legislation passed on a 21-16 vote, with two Democrats joining Republicans who voted against the bill as a threat to public safety.
"This is absolutely outrageous that we are going to release these little psychopaths back onto the street to murder again," Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) said of SB-9. "We’re talking about serious crimes where we have young people who are flat-out evil."
The bill applies to prisoners who committed their crimes when they were younger than 18 years old and have served at least 15 years before they petition the court that originally sentenced them to change the sentence to allow parole after 25 years.
— Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: State Sen. LeLand Yee (D-San Francisco), left, talks last week with Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D- Santa Ana) about Yee's bill. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press