By David M. Greenwald
Today the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld SB 1391, which prevents prosecutors from charging and trying 14- and 15-year-olds as adults and ruling it furthers voter intentions of keeping kids out of adult prisons.
Following the passage of SB 1391, Ventura County moved to transfer a 15-year-old to adult court, challenging the law and arguing that SB 1391 was an unconstitutional amendment to Prop. 57.
In an opposition letter from the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA) in September 2018, they argued that the bill “eliminates the authority for a court to decide whether a 14 or 15 year old charged with certain serious offenses is unfit for the juvenile system. This well-intentioned bill inappropriately applies a one-size-fits-all approach to situations that call for individual and unique examinations. In so doing, SB 1391 puts our communities at risk.”
One of the public opponents of the bill was Yolo County DA Jeff Reisig, who was one of 43 California DAs to urge Governor Brown to veto the bill.
Reisig was worried that Daniel Marsh, found guilty of a double murder in Davis, could be eligible for relief under this bill.
At the time, he told the press that the office will fight “with every legal tool and argument at our disposal” to ensure Marsh serves his original life sentence.
“The pain and suffering that the Legislature and the governor have inflicted upon victims’ families, now and forever, by enacting a juvenile-court-no-exceptions rule that shields and limits accountability for even the most heinous and violent young killers in our society is unfathomable,” Reisig said. “California is less safe today.
But progressive DAs on Thursday praised the court’s decision.
“I applaud today’s Supreme Court ruling. Children should not be treated as adults because they possess unique tendencies, such as impulsiveness, susceptibility to peer influence and inability to foresee the long-term consequences of their actions,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said.
He added, “We know from science that young people have the capacity for growth and development that increases their likelihood of rehabilitation. Research shows that rehabilitation works and by rehabilitating our children, we will make it less likely that they will commit new crimes, thereby preventing victimization in the future and promoting healing in our communities.”
SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin said on Twitter, “Thrilled to see the California Supreme Court protect the rights of kids and ensure that our courts stop the legal fiction that some kids are adults.”
He added, “As DA, I have already committed to not prosecuting any kids as adults and to keeping them in the juvenile system, which can address the unique development and needs of kids. Happy to see change is coming statewide—thank you to the advocates and policymakers who fought for kids.”
Contra Costa DA Diana Becton said: “Today’s unanimous decision by the Supreme Court is an important moment for the criminal justice system to give children a chance at rehabilitation for crimes they committed during their youth. I have always believed this law was constitutional and should be followed.
“Our local judges in Contra Costa County have also agreed with me. The juvenile justice system currently is not working. I established a task force to examine how to reform our juvenile justice system. We must think differently on how we treat children and ensure we strategically allocate resources to focus on prevention and rehabilitation efforts.”
The Vanguard will have a full analysis of this ruling coming up.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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