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Articles Posted in Juvenile Offenses

Over the past decade, California lawmakers have taken significant steps to improve the state’s broken criminal justice system. Lawmakers began to realize that decades of a “War on Drugs,” coupled with the state’s tough-on-crime stance, resulted in over-incarceration, mostly of Young Men of Color. However, given the recent sea change in the state’s sentencing enhancement laws, thousands of current inmates stand to have their sentences reduced. Below is a description of some of the most notable new sentencing enhancement laws over the past few years.

Senate Bill 180

Effective: January 1, 2018.

Governor Gavin Newsom recommends for Commutation the Application of a Barhoma Law, P.C. Client who spent nearly three decades behind bars.

Barhoma Law, P.C. receives the Commutation Recommendation from Governor Gavin Newsom’s office. The Barhoma Law, P.C. client may soon be walking free. Historically, Governors will wait and issue a number of Commutations and other Pardons at the end of their term. However, Governor Newsom has elected to issue commutations more periodically. And in making these issuance, he has recieved and reviewed the Commutation Application of a deserving Barhoma Law Client and has recommended his sentence to be commuted.

Traditionally, the Governor’s office has free reign and control to commute sentences in any way they deem fit. One thing the Governor’s office can do is recommend a sentence for commutation by sending the case, alongside the commutation recommendation, to the office of the Parole Board, who will put together a review and hold a hearing. Once that’s completed successfully, it will be sent back to the Governor’s office for final commutation. This particular Barhoma Law client may soon be walking free after nearly 30 years of incarceration.

On December 7, 2020, George Gascon was sworn in as the new District Attorney, defeating the previous District Attorney, Jackie Lacey. With his swearing in comes sweeping reforms and promises to re-open thousands of old cases. In his sweeping reforms, Mr. Gascon provides for retroactive applications, removing gun enhancements, gang enhancements, Three Strikes Law and materially changing juvenile laws.

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Traditionally, reforms are non-retroactive, meaning they do not apply to prior judgments or convictions. However, in Mr. Gascon’s sweeping reform, his office is now applying these reforms retroactively. That means that many of the new changes will affect old convictions from the past, regardless of when they took place.

In this post, Attorney Matthew Barhoma, founder of Barhoma Law, P.C. and California Criminal Appeals Attorney highlights the new changes and outlines how they will affect general cases. To learn how District Attorney, George Gascon’s, sweeping reform may affect your case, please consult with a Criminal Appeals and Post Conviction attorney with Barhoma Law, P.C. by calling our firm at 213-800-7664.

Celebrities have a lot of sway. They are frequently on television, and many of them have hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of followers on social media. In Kim Kardashian’s case, more than 67 million followers. Over the years, Kardashian has used her platform to advocate for criminal justice reform generally, as well as speaking out about specific injustices she sees in the system.

kim-kardashian-trump-300x200Kardashian’s most recent efforts relate to the scheduled execution of Brandon Bernard, a 40-year-old man who the government plans to execute on December 10, 2020. Bernard was arrested and charged with murder in what the prosecution described as a gang-related killing. Evidently, back in 1999, when Bernard was just 18 years old, he and several of his associates approached a vehicle with a couple inside. One of Bernard’s associates shot at the couple inside the car, and then Bernard lit the car on fire. One of the victims died of a gunshot wound and the other of smoke inhalation. Bernard was convicted in a Texas court and sentenced to die. He exhausted his appeals and post-conviction remedies, and is scheduled to be executed this month. According to Bernard, he lit the car on fire when his co-defendant held a gun to his head. As such, it was questionable to what extent he was involved.

Upon hearing about the case, Kardashian reached out to her millions of Twitter followers, asking them to sign a petition urging President Donald Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence to life in prison. Kardashian explained in a November 29th tweet, “while Brandon did participate in this crime, his role was minor compared to that of the other teens involved, two of whom are home from prison now.” She went on to explain that the crime was horrible, but that Bernard’s trial attorney failed to present important mitigating information that may have impacted the jury’s decision to render a death sentence. For example, the jury never heard that Bernard grew up in an abusive home, that his father left him to fend for himself on the streets, and that he was remorseful for his role in the killings. Kardashian also pointed out that the jury did not hear evidence regarding how Bernard’s brain was still developing when he participated in the crime.

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case that could have broad implications for juveniles who are serving life sentences for a California murder conviction.

The case, Jones. v. Mississippi, involves a defendant who stabbed his grandfather to death when he was just 15 years old. After the jury found the defendant guilty, the judge sentenced him to what was then a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The defendant’s convictions were affirmed on appeal. However, in a petition for post-conviction relief, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted the defendant’s request for a resentencing, solely to determine if he should ever be eligible for parole.

After the court granted the defendant’s resentencing request, but before the sentencing hearing, the U.S. Supreme Court released a monumental opinion regarding JLWOP cases (juvenile life without the possibility of parole). The case was Miller v. Alabama, in which the court held that a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole for a juvenile offender violates the Eighth Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

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Sadly, the United States Supreme Court lost Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after serving on the Court since 1993. The loss of Justice Ginsburg is a tragedy in many respects. However, in terms of her efforts to make the criminal law fairer for all defendants, her work will especially be missed. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was not a criminal defense attorney by trade. However, she was stalwart in her belief that the laws of the United States — especially for those facing serious crimes such as California homicide offenses — should be fair for all. These beliefs led most to consider her the most defendant-friendly justice on the Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court consists of nine justices. With Justice Ginsburg’s passing, the Court will now consist of eight justices until a new justice is confirmed. With Justice Ginsburg no longer a part of the court, legal commentators are questioning how the Court will rule on several important issues. For example, the following are issues that are either in front of the Court this term, or may come up in future terms.

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Life without the possibility of parole for children:

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a California post-conviction case discussing whether the defendant was entitled to a new sentencing hearing. Ultimately, the court concluded that the lower court failed to consider the required “youth-related mitigating factors” at sentencing. As a result, the court remanded the case so the defendant could be re-sentenced.

The Facts of the Case

As is often the case in post-conviction matters, the underlying facts of the crime are less important than the procedural history of the case. Here, the defendant was charged with murder related to a robbery in 2015. Evidently, the defendant and a group of friends attempted to rob a man. When the man refused to hand over his backpack, the defendant beat the man with a metal baseball bat. The man died later that evening. At the time of the offense, the defendant was 17 years old.

The defendant was tried and convicted in front of a jury. After the jury returned a guilty verdict, the court sentenced the defendant to life without the possibility of parole. In doing so, the court relied on section 190.2(a)(17), which dictates that murder committed during the course of an enumerated felony is an aggravating circumstance to be used at sentencing. However, nowhere in the record did the court consider the defendant’s youth-related mitigation factors.

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