I am a believer in redemption and second chances. However, I also believe there should be consequences for those who commit a crime, especially those who commit cold-blooded murder. Redemption doesn't mean escape from consequences, and those who suggest otherwise are misguided.
This is why I voted against Senate Bill 9 by Senator Leland Yee. SB 9 gives those who were minors at the time they committed their crimes and who were sentenced to life without parole the ability to ask the court for re-sentencing up to three times.
I am incensed that this bill puts the lives of volatile criminals ahead of the safety of our families and undermines tough crime laws that have been put in place in our state. While some will argue that this bill is about rehabilitation, it is really about juveniles who committed first degree murder when they were 16 or 17. There were numerous District Attorneys and organizations such as the California Police Chiefs Association and Crime Victims United that opposed this bill because it could benefit people like Roman Barnes.
Barnes, who was 16 at the time, beat his 85-year-old next door neighbor to death with a brick after breaking into her house to rob her. He then stole a videocassette recorder and set the house on fire. Under SB 9, Barnes could have the ability to petition the court for re-sentencing.
The offenders who would benefit from SB 9 are not simply criminals who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. They are not kids who drank alcohol before they were 18 or tried drugs. They are violent and volatile individuals who have committed a heinous murder that warrants a life behind bars, separated from the public at large. The act of giving them a path of recourse when they’ve displayed total disregard for human life is foolish.
California voters passed Proposition 115 in 1990, which provided for the life without parole sentence for juveniles age 16 or older who commit first-degree murder with special circumstances. SB 9 undermines the will of the voters and breaks the promises made to victims’ families that the person who murdered their loved ones would never be released from prison. Imagine the heartache they must again endure at the thought of their loved one’s murderer getting a second chance at life.
Beyond the inherent risk to the public of allowing this bill to succeed is its astronomical price tag that will be charged to taxpayers. Our due process legal system is funded with taxpayer money, and allowing offenders the opportunity to appeal up to three times now eats up resources needed in our cash-strapped state.
This bill was unfortunately passed in both the State Assembly and Senate and now sits on the Governor’s desk. I urge you to call Governor Brown at (916) 445-2841 and ask him to veto this bill. This is about protecting the safety of the public and preventing the families of murder victims from being victimized once again.
— Assemblymember Kristin Olsen (R) represents the 25th district, encompassing Calaveras, Mariposa, Mono, and Tuolumne counties, and parts of Madera and Stanislaus counties.
This editorial has been corrected. Previously, it incorrectly stated Gov. Jerry Brown's phone number.