Resentencing Grants Man Opportunity for Parole

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – A few weeks ago a Yolo County judge granted Paul Hinojosa resentencing on his life sentence that will allow him to seek parole within the next two years.

In 2009, Hinojosa was sentenced to 33 years to life after a jury convicted him of, among other things, kidnapping for the purpose of robbery.

The court ended up striking remaining enhancements as well as striking other counts after both the judge and prosecutor, Ryan Couzens, agreed that he has turned his life around.

As Deputy Public Defender Sara Johnson noted in her motion, “Hinojosa will show the court evidence of childhood trauma and prior victimization contributed to the committing offense, and evidence of his rehabilitation and remorse.”

She noted, “New legislation directs a court to consider a defendant’s own background, especially where there is evidence of childhood trauma or past victimization, as well as postconviction conduct where there is evidence that age, time served, and rehabilitation show that continued incarceration is no longer in the interest of justice.”

At the time of the offenses, Hinojosa was suffering from “severe substance use disorder and under the influence of substances, which was rooted in his experiences of childhood trauma.”

Hinojosa has spent 12 years in state prison and is now 44 years old. He was, prior to the resentencing, not eligible for a parole suitability hearing for ten more years, in 2032, when he will be 54 years old.

Johnson argued, “10 years is long enough to be able to reevaluate someone’s growth and rehabilitation, and to begin to consider their release.”

While the motion focuses heavily on his childhood trauma, it also heavily focuses on his growth and rehabilitation while in prison—currently incarcerated at San Quentin.

“Though it took time for change to occur, Mr. Hinojosa now views his prison term as a crucial opportunity for him to understand the underlying causes of his anger, develop tools to deal with his emotions and learn how to communicate and build healthy relationships, and stop his drug use, which in his past simply made everything worse. He has grown and matured into a person who is no longer angry,” Johnson explained in her motion.

He started in 2010 with a security score of 92 and has dropped his score down to 20 by 2022, a level two setting as opposed to a level four setting just six years ago.

He has also worked hard to improve his education, earning at GED in 2013, and then being admitted to vocational courses in 2021.

On his 2022 Vocational Office Services and Related Tech progress reports, his instructors stated, “Inmate Hinojosa has done a good job in the short time he has been assigned […] [he] gets along well with his instructor.”

He also received straight satisfactory scores on his behavior assessment.

Johnson writes, “Most impressively, Mr. Hinojosa worked his way up to becoming a Teacher’s Aide for Adult Basic Education I in 2022.”

He has also received good marks from his work supervisors.

“Hinojosa came to CALPIA Fabric Products highly recommended and his performance to date exceeds all expectations,” his supervisor wrote in 2021.

The same supervisor added, “Since his employment, Hinojosa has demonstrated a commitment to meeting CALPIA’s high quality standards and demanding production needs and is a competent at his job.”

“During the period of his employment, Mr. Hinojosa has performed his duties with great skill. His attendance has been above average, and he manages his time well with little supervision. Mr. Hinojosa has a positive attitude and relates well to other inmates, staff, and security personnel,” a 2017 evaluation noted.

Hinojosa has been sober now since 2018, and his attorney said he “now understands that drug use inhibited his ability to think and to feel.”

She also noted, “One of the biggest components of the LTOP program is writing a letter of amends. Mr. Hinojosa shared he did not know what amends was until the program introduced it, but he chose to envelop the practice and draft a letter to his victims.”

Hinojosa, she writes, “fully understands the irreverisibility of his actions and damage he caused that day.”

Hinojosa benefits from changes in the law.

Under the prior law, “a court was required to impose an additional one-year term for each prior separate prison term.”

But under SB 483, this enhancement is legally invalid.

Johnson writes, “The court may consider postconviction factors, including, but not limited to, the disciplinary record and record of rehabilitation of the defendant while incarcerated, evidence that reflects whether age, time served, and diminished physical condition, if any, have reduced the defendant’s risk for future violence, and evidence that reflects that circumstances have changed since the original sentencing so that continued incarceration is no longer in the interests of justice.”

During the resentencing hearing, DDA Couzens agreed with the public defender that Hinojosa has made remarkable progress and did not oppose the resentencing.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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