We’ve reported on states changing laws to allow felons to vote. Then you’ve got California releasing murderers because it “feels right” to give them another chance.
Now, in another sign that the inmates are running the prison, the governor of California has approved “The Right to a Jury of Your Peers”.
It’s a move that will allow people with a prior felony conviction to serve on juries in California for the first time.
Prior to this, there was a law in California that excluded felons from jury service. Local media backed the legislation, saying it’s not right to prevent someone with a graffiti or drug conviction from serving on a jury.
That’s why they introduced SB 310.
The legislation, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom this week, allows a person with a prior felony conviction to serve on a jury. That is only unless the person is on parole or probation, or a registered sex offender for a felony conviction.
The state Assembly approved the legislation on a 47-26 vote. The Senate gave its final OK on a 29-10 vote.
“SB 310 will ensure that Californians can be tried by a true jury of their peers,” said the bill’s author.
That’s Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who released a statement on the legislation.
“Currently, 30% of African-American men living in California are denied the basic civil right to serve on a jury. SB 310 will right that wrong.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, along with many other social justice warrior groups, were thrilled.
Among those who applauded it was Brendon Woods, Alameda County’s Public Defender. He wrote a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle about it:
“During my 20-plus years as a public defender in California, I have handled thousands of criminal cases. I can’t tell you how often I’ve sat at the defense table with a young African American client who was excited to prove his innocence, only to see his enthusiasm replaced with hopelessness and dread once he saw the jury,” he said.
He wrote the op-ed in July:
“It’s difficult to tell a young man that he shouldn’t feel defeated when faced with the fact that not a single person who will be deciding his future looks like him. He is immediately confronted with the reality that he will not be getting a jury of his peers.”
He said this was a personal vendetta for him.
“As an African American male, I am faced with the harsh reality that if I am ever arrested and charged with a crime, under current law, it is almost guaranteed that I will not have a jury of my peers,” he wrote.
Obviously many are against SB310. Those fighting against it argued that people with felony convictions are too biased to ever serve on a jury.
Even California district attorneys lobbied against the bill, saying they didn’t want sex offenders and people on felony probation to serve.
But according to Skinner’s office, once the bill was amended to exclude those categories of people, the prosecutors dropped their formal opposition.
California joins more than 20 states which allow people with prior felony convictions to serve on a jury, including states such Colorado, Illinois, Maine, and Oregon.
Only Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma will still have lifetime bans on jury service for people with felony convictions.
Proponents of SB 310 say it won’t interfere with the right of prosecutors, public defenders, and judges to reject jurors… nor would it prohibit the “use of a preemptory challenge to remove a prospective juror from the jury pool.”
California is clearly trying to push as far left as possible.
Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom commuted the sentences of 21 violent offenders. Among them were four men who have convictions related to murders in Sacramento County.
The four who were convicted of separate murders in the 90’s were Jacoby Felix, Crystal Jones, Andrew Crater and Luis Alberto Velez.
All of them, who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in Sacramento County, have now been granted commutations by Newsom.
The decision for them and 17 other state prisoners was announced Friday in a statement from the governor’s office. Their press release explained the reasoning for commuting their sentences.
“The Governor carefully reviewed each application and considered a number of factors, including the circumstances of the crime and the sentence imposed, the applicant’s conduct while in prison and the applicant’s self-development efforts since the offense, including whether they have made use of available rehabilitative programs and addressed treatment needs,” said the statement.
Out of the 21 commutations, 15 involved inmates convicted before the age of 26, and so Newsom says youth offender status was another important factor considered.
The four convicted in the murders were all between ages 18 and 26 at the time of their crimes.
The first was Velez, who was 26 at the time of the murder in 1991. He was convicted of killing an armed guard during a robbery and has served more than 28 years of his sentence.
Then there was Felix, who was 18 when he fatally shot a man in 1993 during a carjacking. He has served 26 years.
In 1999, Jones was involved in a drug-related murder. He has served nearly 20 years.
Then there was Crater. He was convicted of first-degree murder for the death of musician Jim Pantages, after he supplied the gun, car and plan. His crimes took place in June of 1995 during a crime spree that included a string of armed robberies – he’s served more than 24 years of his sentence.
Thanks to these commutations, each offender is now up for suitability hearings with the state Board of Parole Hearings.
It’s now up to the California Supreme Court to upheld or reject the commutations. In his final weeks in office, former Governor Jerry Brown had 10 clemency actions blocked by the court. It was the first time since 1930 that a California governor’s commutation requests had been denied.
That might not happen in this case, according to that news release. Why? Because Velez and Jones’ cases have already been reviewed and recommended by both the Board of Parole Hearings and the California Supreme Court.
State law requires those advance reviews for any commutation case involving an applicant with multiple felony convictions.
Now Velez, Felix and are eligible for parole suitability hearings in 2020.
In 2023, Jones will be up for it after serving 25 years of his life sentence.
Included in Newsom’s disturbing commutations are a number of other violent murderers.
One is Marcus McJimpson, who has served 31 years of two life terms for a 1988 Fresno County double murder.
Then there’s 80-year-old Doris Roldan, who has been imprisoned since 1981 for the first-degree murder of her husband.
Roldan, who is from Los Angeles County, now uses a wheelchair… so was recommended for clemency by her warden.
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In August, Newsom made headlines for a similar disturbing move where he allowed the parole of an Aryan Brotherhood member convicted of two murders.
He was convicted of two murders in 1975. He was handed additional life sentences for murders behind bars. Now, after nearly 45 years in prison, a former high-ranking member of the Aryan Brotherhood has been freed from prison.
The former white supremacist, Michael Lynn Thompson, 67, was handed his release after describing to the parole board commissioners how he did not fight back during a 2015 attempt on his life, in keeping with his, “vow of nonviolence.” California Governor Gavin Newsom had the ability to reverse the decision, but chose to take no action, and Thompson went free.
He was paroled Aug. 12, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The details of his release and where he is now haven’t been made public, citing his status as a dropout makes him a target by the Aryan Brotherhood or its allies.
While parole boards typically look for admission, remorse and change, Thompson was granted parole despite denying he was directly responsible for the two murders he was convicted of in 1975.
He told the parole board he had been recruited by several prison gangs upon entering the system in 1975. He was 6′ 4″, could bench about 600 pounds, and was a skilled knife fighter.
“There was no sneaking behind somebody and hitting them or anything else,” Thompson said. “If I called a man out, and he didn’t have a knife, I gave him a knife and we went head up, and that’s the way you did it back then.”
According to Mercury News, the Aryan Brotherhood, also known as the AB and The Brand, started in the California prison system in the 1960s. Its members use the shamrock as a symbol, but also sport swastika tattoos and other Nazi symbolism.
Its members commit horrific acts of violence in hopes that others will be too scared to challenge them. This past June, federal prosecutors linked 24 members and associates to four murders and five murder plotsthroughout California.
Thompson’s decision to drop out and cooperate with police in the early 80s shook up the structure of the Aryan Brotherhood and led to several prosecutions. He cited the actions of Curtis Price — an Aryan Brotherhood hitman who killed a dropout member’s father — as his reason for leaving the gang.
Since dropping out, Thompson has testified multiple times as a prosecution witness. In one case he was snuck into a courthouse in a vending machine, with the insides taken out, because of concerns he would be assassinated.
After leaving the gang, he vowed to live a life of nonviolence. That pledge was put to the test in 2015. A ‘Mexican Mafia’ hitman attacked him. Thompson told the parole board that he disarmed the man but chose to lay down on top of the weapon rather than fight back.
“There was a window of opportunity. I saw it. I played it through in my head. I knew what I could do to him,” Thompson told the parole board. “And instead, I took the weapon, and I put it underneath me, and I laid down until staff got there. And that was in keeping with my vow of nonviolence.”
It was this incident that was cited by commissioners as a reason for granting Thompson parole. He had petitioned for parole more than a dozen times previously.
Based on court documents, Thompson, along with John Solis, was convicted of murdering Rue Steele and Butch Nunley, two alleged marijuana traffickers who owned ranches in Southern California. According to authorities, Thompson wanted to move in with Nunley’s wife, so to get him out of the way he invented a bogus story that Nunley and Steele wanted to kidnap Solis’ children. Solis believed Thompson and told him and another man, Mike Sesma, to kill Nunley and Steele.
Thompson told different story altogether. While he says he had heard that Solis’ kids were in danger of being kidnapped, and he definitely did warn Solis. However, he said he was working at a pigsty at the ranch weeks later when another man told him not to dig too deep because two bodies were buried there.
“I’ve never killed anybody,” Thompson told the parole board.
Except for the people he killed that landed him additional life sentences.
To the contrary of Thompson, Governor Newsom denied parole for Rene Enriquez, who is more or less Thompson’s counterpart in the Mexican Mafia. As almost his mirror image, Enriquez was a high-ranking member of his prison gang, who also dropped out and began cooperating with police, was convicted of two murders, and is believed to have knowledge of dozens more. Enriquez has been tentatively granted parole several times.
According to Mercury News, Thompson told the parole board he planned to work with Live, Learn and Prosper, a nonprofit he founded that preaches nonviolent means to conflict resolution, with a curriculum geared toward incarcerated people.
President Trump signed the Next Step Act to assist with criminal justice and prison reform. It was not intended to free violent offenders.
Perhaps the board and the governor believed that he was a transformed man. Only time will tell.
But even at the age of 67, we have seen violent offenders released, only to strike again.
They said he was too old to pose a threat. So, they released him from prison. It’s safe to say there’s blood on their hands.
Albert Flick, a 77-year-old who spent decades in prison for fatally stabbing his wife was released because of his age.
This week… he was convicted of a nearly identical crime.
Jurors in Maine took less than an hour to find Flick guilty in the 2018 murder of a homeless mother, Kimberly Dobbie. Flick stabbed her at least 11 times while her twin sons watched.
It’s a crime that’s strikingly similar to the killing that sent Flick to jail for 25 years in 1979. He stabbed his then-wife Sandra Flick 14 times in front of her daughter.
He was let out of prison in 2004, then sent back in 2010 after assaulting another woman.
The recommendation was for a longer sentence, but the judge ignored that. He said Flick wouldn’t be a threat because of his age and it didn’t make sense to keep him locked up.
Four years later, in 2014, he was released and moved to Lewiston.
According to prosecutors, he met Dobbie, a 48-year-old mother, and became infatuated with her. He started stalking her and dining at the homeless shelter where she was staying.
Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis told jurors Flick knew Dobbie was planning on leaving town. Ellis says Flick thought to himself: “If I can’t have her, I will kill her.”
According to prosecutors, two days before the murder Flick purchased a pair of knives at a Walmart… then attacked Dobbie in broad daylight in front of a laundromat, puncturing her heart and lungs.
Her 11-year-old twin sons watched her murder. So did a surveillance camera.
Elsie Clement is the woman who was a child when she watched Flick stab her mother to death. In court, she said the judge who set him free will have to answer to Dobbie’s children.
“I would like to just see [everyone involved] in a line and stand there and tell [Dobbie’s] boys, explain to them how this man was on the streets and how it’s OK,” Clement said.
“How the law makes it alright for their mom to now be gone and for them to have to witness it.”
Now Flick faces life behind bars when he’s sentenced in August.
In the meantime, as we reported in April, some politicians are pushing a bill to free rapists and murderers over age 55 from prison.
If it seems too crazy to be true… chances are, it’s coming out of New York, California or Connecticut. And this proposed bill is a straight up slap in the face to law enforcement officers and law-abiding citizens.
Law enforcement officials and New York City Republicans are fuming over a proposal by city Democrats.
Get this. It would grant parole eligibility to older inmates who have served some prison time. It’s being dubbed the “elder parole” bill.
Felons who are currently serving time, including rapists and murderers, would be released onto the street if the controversial state bill passes. Any inmate aged 55 and older who has served at least 15 years in prison would be automatically eligible for parole.
On Fox and Friends First Monday, New York City councilman Joe Borelli blasted the “elder parole” bill and its automatic eligibility.
“These are not people that stole a candy bar, they’re not people that smoked a joint and got caught,” he said.
He pointed out anyone in jail for 15 years or more has likely committed a “heinous crime” that “at 15 years prior, a judge and jury thought you deserved to be put away for almost the remainder of your life.”
It slams it as “basically an amnesty program” for murderers, rapists, child molesters and others with Class A and Class B felonies.
He cited issues with the New York State Parole Board.
“So, when they say eligibility of parole, given the history of this state’s parole board, we should all be concerned that this is going to be almost an amnesty program,” the Republican said.
According to the New York Post:
The legislation has quietly flown under the radar since being introduced in the Assembly in February by Queens Democrat David Weprin. The release of Weather Underground terrorist Judith Clark, paroled earlier this month after serving more than 37 years in prison, gave the bill’s backers a new talking point.
Senator Brad Hoylman, a Democrat from Manhattan, introduced the accompanying Senate bill about a week before Clark’s release. She praised her parole:
“There are so many more Judith Clarks out there” and “we must work to fight for their freedom.”
Lest you think there’s no way this outrageous bill could pass, here’s what you should know.
It’s already moved through crime committees in both the Senate and Assembly.
If it becomes law, at 900 convicts could have a chance at freedom, according to Hoylman’s office.
Borelli, referencing the example of Judith Clark, gave a hard reality check:
“This is someone who for most of us – back here on planet earth and most of New York State, really – deserve to be, should be in jail for the remainder of their life.”
He slammed the bill as “misguided”.
“These are families who aren’t going to get their loved-ones back when they turn 55 or after 15 years,” he added.
It’s almost as if it’s a push to see who can go further left.
“It’s just the New York State Democrats trying to win the contest of who could be the craziest,” Borelli said.
He also debunked the argument critics have made about the expense of keeping the criminals behind bars, at taxpayer expense.
“It is expensive to keep people against their will in a place that prevents the rest of us from getting raped of murdered,” Borelli snapped. “Prison still has a punitive aspect to it. We should be following through on the commitment we made to the victims years prior and keep these folks in jail for the remainder of their sentence.”
To be clear, even those serving life without parole sentences could benefit from the bill if it passes into law.
Criminals could be released such as ‘90s serial killer Joel Rifkin, the Queens Wendy’s massacre mastermind John Taylor, and Bronx child rapist Clarence Moss.
“The loved ones they lost are not coming back when the defendants turn 55 — they are never coming back,” Assistant District Attorney John Ryan said.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is in support of the bill.
“If someone has gone through the process of changing themselves . . . there should be a mechanism for them to then appear before a parole board that will fully vet them,” he said.
Hoylman argued that “we are looking at billions of dollars . . . that could be used toward a lot of other worthwhile purposes”. It’s an argument quickly dismissed by Borelli.
“We’ve seen this act before,” he said Monday. “This is a summation of the priorities of the Democratic Party in 2019. They care more about the inmates than the corrections officers, they care more about the suspects than the cops, and – with respect to this – they care more about the criminals than the victims who’ve suffered.”
The bill was approved by the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction. It’s chaired by State Sen. Luis Sepulveda, D-Bronx. There was absolutely no debate on the bill at the meeting. Sepulveda and other Democrats bragged about it being a money-saver for the state that would change the lives of aging parolees.
“This is, in terms of fiscal policy, a no-brainer,” Sepulveda said. “If you look at the recidivism rate of people over 55 that are released, it’s minuscule.”
It was proposed last year, but Republicans controlled the State Senate and it never stood a chance with them.
The Release Aging People in Prison campaign is being led by Jose Saldana, who is pushing the bill on the advocacy side. The push has been happening for years, but now that Democrats have a majority of both houses of the Legislature for the first time in nearly a decade… it’s likely to go through.
“It would impact hundreds of elderly incarcerated men and women who are mentors and educators to countless people they’ve been incarcerated with,” Saldana said. “The bill offers hope and an opportunity for people to return to their families and home communities to continue to repair the harm they caused.”
His group is one of several pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fully staff the state parole board. State law says there are supposed to be 19 commissioners on the board, but there are currently 12. Only Cuomo can make appointments to it.
“Too many people have been unjustly denied release because of understaffing,” said Anthony Posada. He’s the supervising attorney of the community justice unit at The Legal Aid Society. “This devastates their families and communities, creates a lack of due process in the system and requires immediate action.”
The Governor’s spokesman said he’s deliberately slow-walking the appointments, as has been done in the past.
“Governor Cuomo has filled vacancies on the Board of Parole at the same level and pace as previous governors have for the past several decades,” the spokesman said. “He has prioritized the appointment of individuals with a diverse range of professional expertise, such as mental health professionals, attorneys, psychologists and others with criminal justice experience. The Governor has also supported additional reforms to the parole system.”
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