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Jerry Brown OKs appeal for minors sentenced to life without parole

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Juvenile killers sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in California will be given a new chance at release after they serve 25 years under legislation signed Sunday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The governor approved a measure by state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), a child psychologist who argued that minors are immature and lack good judgment and should be given a second chance.

"The Governor’s signature of SB 9 is emotional for both the supporters and the opposition, but I am proud that today California said we believe all kids, even those we had given up on in the past, are deserving of a second chance," Yee said Sunday.

There are about 300 people in California prisons who were sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole for murders committed when they were minors.

The legislation requires that convicts show remorse and work toward rehabilitation before they can petition for a new sentence, and disqualifies those whose crimes involved torture. 

The bill was opposed by the California District Attorneys Assn., which noted that prosecutors have discretion when seeking sentences for minors. The group wrote to lawmakers that creating the potential for a life sentence to be reduced "by setting such a low standard for eligibility is an affront to justice and disrespectful of the victims of these crimes."

Civil rights leaders disagreed.

"Teenagers are still developing," said Elizabeth Calvin, children’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. "No one –- not a judge, a psychologist, or a doctor -– can look at a 16-year-old and be sure how that young person will turn out as an adult."

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

 
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