California's controversial SB 94 could reduce sentences for felons not eligible for parole

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Saturday, September 2, 2023
CA's SB 94 could reduce sentences for felons not eligible for parole
SB 94 would allow some prisoners, convicted of serious crimes including murder, to petition the court for early release.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KABC) -- California Senate Bill 94 is now headed to the floor for a full vote by the California Assembly.

The bill would open the possibility of judicial review to reduce sentences for some felons of serious crimes, including murder, if they've been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

These are inmates in the California prison system who have been in custody for 25 years, or if their crime happened before June of 1990.

"SB 94 creates a simple process that allows a person who's been incarcerated for decades and decades to prove they've been rehabilitated, and can one day be successfully released to the community," said Daniel Trautfield with the SB 94 Coalition. "SB 94 doesn't guarantee release to anyone."

If it passes, some felons would be exempt from SB 94, including those who have been convicted of killing law enforcement, someone who killed three or more people and a person who committed certain sexual crimes together with murder.

It's a controversial bill that has angered some district attorneys and crime-victim advocates.

"In SB 94, there's an absolute commitment to make sure that somebody who was sentenced lawfully, exhausted all their appeals, justice was done, will now be able to reopen their case and be let out of prison when they were supposed to die in prison," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.

The family of Miguel Antero, who was 6 years old when he disappeared in Agoura Hills in 1986 and found dead hours later, are worried SB 94 could help their loved one's murderer get out of prison.

"This perpetrator, this monster cannot be released to the public, for any other family to go through this hardship," said Ani Bradshaw, Miguel Antero's mother.

"It's important for certain privileges not to be awarded to people who really deserve to be in there, period," said Enid Antero, Miguel Antero's sister.

But those who support SB 94 emphasize nobody would just be released, highlighting a rigorous process involving the governor's office, parole boards and other factors.

"Many, many women are serving life without parole sentences whose crimes occurred within the context of domestic violence, and often times in the 80s, 70s, those circumstances weren't allowed in court," Trautfield said. "Meaning that some women went through court system and sentenced to life without parole after a one-day trial."