Yesterday, the California Assembly Public Safety Committee voted 4 – 2 to approve Senate Bill No. 399, which allows any prisoner to petition the sentencing court for “recall” (i.e., cancellation) if they have served at least 10 years of a life-without-parole sentence for any crime committed before turning 18 . These juvenile offenders, almost all of whom were convicted of first-degree murder with any number of aggravating circumstances (e.g. multiple murders, murder for hire, murder of a police officer or firefighter, and torture of the victim), would then be allowed a rehearing where victims families would have to testify to fight a new and reduced sentence.
As bad as this policy is, the tactics employed by supporters of the policy are even worse. Activist groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), Equal Justice Initiative, and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund have engaged in a coordinated campaign using self-published reports and “studies” that include false or misleading factual claims. The Heritage Foundation’s Adult Time for Adult Crimes report identifies and refutes many of these false studies.
A coalition of groups representing prosecutors, police and victims defeated this bill once before when the Assembly Public Safety Committee voted 4 – 3 against it last June. Not happy with the committee vote, the Assembly’s majority simply changed the voters on the committee, moving Assembly Member Fiona Ma off the committee and moving Assembly Member Nancy Skinner from Berkeley in. Of the two remaining “no” votes on the committee, one is a founding member of the Community Volunteers Assisting Law Enforcement and the other is a retired California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief. The bill’s chief sponsor is a psychologist.
A Mexican native, Jesus Mandujano was from the town of Nuevo Italia in the State of Michoacan, Mexico. He migrated northwards and, in 1992, began his career in
the United States as a burglar.
On January 3, 1992, Mandujano and some fellow gang members entered the home of J. Sacramento Benitez-Hernandez. Benitez-Hernandez’s sister sold jewelry from the home, and Mandujano and his fellow gang members intended to get some money. Mandujano, armed with a handgun, confronted Benitez-Hernandez, who fled to his bedroom and closed the door. Mandujano shot him through the bedroom door, killing him.
On April 2, 1992, Mandujano participated in another home robbery in San Jose. During the robbery, he pistol-whipped several men in the house and forced two women to undress, threatening to cut off their breasts if they did not comply. He then sexually assaulted one of the females in a bedroom.