By Mathew Seibert
SILICON VALLEY, CA – A “Day of Action” was hosted Monday by FUEL (Families United to End LWOP) and the Drop LWOP coalition to support the Senate Bill 300, which addresses the “felony murder special circumstance law by allowing for a sentence other than the death penalty or life in prison without parole (LWOP) for a person who did not kill anyone.”
Senator Dave Cortese (D-Santa Clara) authored the sentencing reform act and his Deputy Chief of Staff & Press Secretary, Tara Sreekrishnan said Cortese hopes to restore judicial discretion by imposing a sentence of 25-years-to-life for individuals who otherwise would receive the death penalty.
This specifically pertains to persons who participated in an underlying felony, but did not kill anybody or intend for any persons to die, he added.
The issue of Death or Life Without Possibility of Parole (LWOP) is still alive at the State Capitol after the Bill SB 1437 reformed the first degree felony murder rule.
“We can adopt resolutions on racial injustice, we can set up commissions and special oversight boards, but until we change the laws that are leading to mass incarceration of people of color – none of that is going to matter,” said Cortese.
Some sponsors of the Bill SB 300 include FUEL, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, the Drop LWOP Coalition, California Coalition for Women Prisoners and the Felony Murder Elimination Project.
Sreekrishnan included two unjust stories in her office’s press statement regarding SB 300.
In the first example, the lawmaker noted Tammy Cooper, sentenced to die in prison at 32 years old, faced the consequences of the corrupt justice system for the deadly actions of her abuser. She was charged as an accomplice to a murder she did not commit and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
In another case, Tony Vigeant was sentenced to die in prison due to being involved in a tragic accident where a fellow Marine suffering from PTSD, shot and killed someone while retrieving Tony’s computer. Even though Tony didn’t kill or harm anyone, he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
SB 300 will address injustices like what happened to Tammy and Tony, by allowing for the alternate 25-years-to-life sentence, said lawmaker Cortese.
After successfully passing through the state senate, SB 300 will be heard in the State Assembly in upcoming weeks.