By Rena Abdusalam
WOODLAND, CA- In a ruling that disappointed Craig Lamot Hinton in Yolo County Superior Court late last week, Judge David Rosenberg denied Hinton’s petition for a resentence.
Hinton, a 45-year-old man, was convicted of second-degree murder when he was 20 years old. He has served 25 years of his 30-year sentence.
At the end of the hearing, Judge Rosenberg stated that although the accused qualifies as a youthful offender, he does not find him eligible for resentencing.
The first argument made for Hinton’s motion was made by his attorney, Ava D. Landers, who argued the jury arrived at his conviction of second-degree murder without cause, adding it was not clear how the jury came to this conclusion.
She added Hinton always maintained he did not want to kill that day or have any malice against the victim, but the jury seemed to be confused, and did not know what second-degree murder was in this case.
Landers also said a motion to strike his prior strike during his trial was never considered. And because of that, the court had to double his expected sentence of 15 years to 30.
Attorney Landers also noted Linton’s mitigation statement, which includes a psychological evaluation, proof of classes he has taken after his incarceration, supporting documents showing his conduct, and documents expressing Hinton’s life plan on how to be a law-abiding citizen.
Additionally, she said background information on Hinton’s past and psychological evaluations were not brought up to the jury in 1997.
“Mr. Hinton is asking this court to give him the opportunity to be a son, a father, a brother, and an uncle to his family,” said Landers.
She added, “When the court listens to Mr. Hinton, I’m just asking the court to remember that he was a 20-year-old sitting in that seat at the time he was sentenced. Even though he is presenting as an intelligent adult [and] 45-year-old man today, I think it’s very important for the court to consider who he was at age 20.”
During Deputy District Attorney David Wilson’s rebuttal, he declared that he would “try to keep it focused on the particular facts.”
Due to SB 1437 and the New Felony Murder Rule, DDA Wilson argued Hinton is ineligible for resentencing, since it is clear that he was the actual killer of the victim. He stated that the SB 1437 rule—in part meant to reduce sentences of those not actively involved in a murder—just does not apply to the accused.
In response to Landers’s argument about the jury’s decision, DDA Wilson claimed the jury deliberately made its decision based on the evidence and laws provided.
Additionally, DDA Wilson brought up Hinton’s issue of parole, saying that he is also not eligible because of his original conviction.
Wilson granted that evidence on Hinton’s mental state and background is permissible, but only to the date that he was originally sentenced. He added the prosecution will object to anything after that date.
Lastly, Hinton gave his statement to the court.
In his statement, Hinton expressed that he would take a lot back if he could. He saw how he has changed a lot of people’s lives, especially the victim’s family. Because of how he was raised, he said what he did when he was 20 years old was all he knew.
He said during his time in prison, he got his high school diploma and achieved a degree in business management. He said he wanted to be a better man for his family and started to surround himself with like-minded people.
During his statement, Hinton began to cry.
“I’m just ready to go home. I’m tired of prison,” Hinton wept. “I’m not saying that I’m not wrong for what I did, but what they gave me, I don’t believe that I deserved that time.
“Sometimes, the law gets it wrong. It’s just life; it happens. But there’s times that when people need to get better, the justice department needs to get better. You know what I mean? I’m just asking for us to get it right…I did spend 25 of my years in prison. I know there’s more to me than prison. I know it,” Hinton said.
Judge Rosenberg agreed with DDA Wilson’s statement on SB 1437. Although SB 1437 provides a window of opportunity for the resentencing of cases, he said that Hinton does not qualify, because records indicate Hinton was the cause of the victim’s death.
On the issue of parole, Judge Rosenberg declared Hinton does have the right to present the mitigation evidence to the parole board. However, he stated that information beyond the date of the sentence is inappropriate and will be stricken.
“I think it’s pretty clear that he is a youthful offender in the sense that he was under 25 at the time. I do find that he is not eligible for resentencing because there is an exception made in the statute for a person who has a prior violent felony,” said Judge Rosenberg.
Hinton was shown on the Zoom hearing shaking his head.
“You can send me back to prison. There’s no reason for me to stick around. I mean, what’s the point? You know, it’s [just] I don’t understand how everything I try, I’m being defeated,” Hinton commented.