Doubling down on his commitment to empty out California’s prisons, Governor Gavin Newsom signed several bills last Friday to block sentence increases for habitual felons and drug dealers. Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times reports that Newsom signed SB 81, introduced by Alameda County Democrat Nancy Skinner, to require that judges dismiss sentence increases (called enhancements) for using a gun in a crime or due to prior convictions. According to Skinner eliminating these enhancements would reduce the “discriminatory racial impact” on minority criminals. The fact that blacks commit 7 times as many felonies as whites and 93% of their victims are other blacks is not of importance.
In April of 2013, Daniel Marsh was 15 years old when he broke into Chip Northup and Claudia Maupin‘s condominium in the middle of the night and heinously murdered them as they slept. His case was directly filed in adult criminal court and, in 2014, he was convicted by a jury of two counts of first degree murder with special circumstances. The trial court imposed a sentence of 52 years to life. The Northup and Maupin families found relief in the verdict and sentence and believed Marsh would be locked up for a very long time. Unfortunately, their relief was short lived and their fight for justice had just begun. Continue reading . . .
In May, the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation put into effect regulations that greatly increased the credits that violent criminals can earn to shorten their sentences. Sam Stanton of the Sacramento Bee has this article on a lawsuit by 45 district attorneys (out of 58 in the state) to invalidate these regulations.
I will have more to say about this suit later, but right now I want to focus on a statement by a supporter of the regulations that illustrates the kind of pseudoscientific posturing that is rampant in policy debates today. Continue reading . . .
Katy Grimes of the California Globe has this story discussing what is making California’s cities more dangerous with recent data on crime rates. Grimes mentions a few of the propositions that have impacted crime over the last decade.
Proposition 47 largely decriminalized theft and drug crimes by reducing those crimes and a number of other “non-violent” felonies to misdemeanors; Prop. 57 allows early release for “non-violent offenders,” including rape by intoxication of an unconscious person, human trafficking involving a sex act with minors, arson causing great bodily harm, drive-by shooting, assault with a deadly weapon, and hostage taking.
However, there is one bill that was not highlighted. AB 109 signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011 which allowed for the release approximately 30,000 felons from state prison with most going on probation rather than parole. This bill removed the option of prison sentences for crimes such as auto theft, drug felonies and domestic violence and replaced it with county jail time or rehabilitation services.
Assuming that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse can break away from his all-white country club, the Senate Judiciary Committee should have full attendance today for its hearing about crack cocaine sentencing. As the Washington Post informs us, today’s hearing will center on the Biden Administration’s proposal to lower the cost of doing business for crack dealers by reducing their sentences and, as an extra bonus, making the reductions retroactive. This will assure earlier release for this particular cohort of drug traffickers, a large percentage of whom will recidivate within five years, according to Sentencing Commission figures. (The number is actually higher than Commission reports, first because yet more dealers recidivate after the five year window, and second because drug trafficking is a notoriously under-reported crime in any event).
Crack sentencing has been a hot topic for years, going back at least to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, co-sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin and a man I’m proud to call a friend, then-Senator and later Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Back then, that self-same Washington Post had some sound observations on crack sentencing, observations Congress would do well to heed today.
The NYPost has this story on a 94-year-old Asian woman, Ann Taylor, who was stabbed by a man who was under ankle monitor surveillance when he committed this unprovoked attack against her in front of her San Francisco residence. The man, Daniel Cauich, “…had reportedly been arrested five times last year on burglary charges, was sprung by a judge on June 7 to await his trial after his most recent arrest for burglary on May 18.”
The Supreme Court decided two cases today dealing with how to address existing cases when the law changes. Greer v. United States, No. 19-8709, addresses the situation where the defense lawyer does not object at trial, because the law seems settled at the time, but the Supreme Court later decides to the contrary. Terry v. United States, No. 20-5904, addresses which inmates convicted prior to the First Step Act can get their sentences for crack cocaine offenses reduced. Continue reading . . .
The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a fractured decision that will severely limit the provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act that allowed the federal government to put away habitual felons who commit three violent felonies.
Definitions of crimes generally require both a bad act and a bad state of mind. For many violent crimes in many states, the bad state of mind may be either intentional or reckless. In deciding whether a prior conviction is for a violent crime, the Supreme Court looks only at the definition, not the actual facts of the crime.
Under today’s decision in Borden v. United States, No. 19-5410, violent crimes that could possibly be committed recklessly will no longer be considered “violent” for ACCA purposes no matter how clearly intentional the crime was in the actual case.
There is no majority opinion providing a coherent rationale for this appalling result. Continue reading . . .
MyNewsLA has this story on Kevin Orellana, an 18-year-old who was murdered by two brothers in 2013 while playing handball at Reseda’s Cleveland High School. Orellana was approached by Anthony and Michael Carpio, both identified as gang members. Michael was hitting and fighting Orellana when Anthony began stabbing him as a gang challenge. Anthony, who was 16-years-old at the time stabbed Orellana 10 times in his head and neck, from behind, leading to his death.
Katy Grimes from The California Globe has this story covering Newsom’s announcement on May 28th, “[He} granted 14 pardons, 13 commutations and 8 medical reprieves – for murderers, bank robbers, armed robbers, kidnappers, killers for hire, drivers of get-away-cars for murderers, and assaulters with firearms.” Yet again we are looking at the release of criminals who have been convicted of heinous, violent crimes that would lead any reasonable person to believe pose a threat to the safety and security of the community in which they are released into.