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Minors sentenced to life without parole should get second chance, state Senate decides

June 1, 2011 |  3:40 pm

A sharply divided state Senate on Wednesday approved giving minors who are sentenced to life in prison without parole a chance to get out.

The bill by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) would allow those under 18 to have their cases reviewed by the courts after 15 years with the possibility of having their sentences changed to eventually allow parole. Yee said the United States is unique in allowing minors to be sentenced to life without parole.

"These youngsters did in fact commit a rather horrible crime,’’ Yee told his colleagues. But he said young people are more prone to impulsive acts and have a better chance of rehabilitation. "This bill is about giving kids a second chance,'' Yee said.

Republican senators including Tom Harman of Huntington Beach opposed the bill, saying it ignores the pain caused to crime victims and gives a break to criminals who have committed cold-blooded murder.

"This bill would say, 'Oh, we should feel sorry for them and we should let them out,' " Harman said. "They are killers. They should be punished and left in prison for the rest of their lives."

The Senate voted 21 to 16 to approve SB 9 and send it to the Assembly.

There are about  275 people in California serving sentences of life in prison without parole for crimes committed when they were minors, according to an analysis by the Legislature.

--Patrick McGreevy

 

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