By Assemblyman Dan Logue
Liberal Democrats are just one vote away in the State Assembly from passing one of the most misguided public safety measures in California’s history – Senate Bill 9 authored by San Francisco Democrat Leland Yee.
This bill would allow murderers who were juveniles at the time they committed their crime and who were sentenced to life without parole to ask the court for re-sentencing up to three times. Given the language of the bill and the long history of Democrats supporting efforts to weaken California’s tough-on-crime laws, SB 9 is just the latest attempt by them to prioritize criminal rights.
That is why I joined a number of public safety officials and organizations such as the California Police Chiefs Association and Crime Victims United to oppose this bill because it could give a slap on the wrist to dangerous criminals like Jimmy Siackasorn.
Siackasorn, who was 16 at the time, shot Sacramento County detective Vu Nguyen three times and killed him while being chased on foot. He later told officers that he knew the detective was a police officer, and shot him because “he deserved it.” Under SB 9, cold-blooded murderers like Siackasorn could petition the court for re-sentencing under the right conditions and not prove he has shown genuine remorse. By just reading a self-help book and saying “I’m sorry,” he could have the opportunity to receive a lighter sentence.
The supporters of SB 9 would have you believe that it is about providing misguided people a chance at redeeming themselves. While I believe in the power of redemption, it has to be accompanied by repentance, which cannot be guaranteed by SB 9.
That is because if you look beyond the rhetoric, you will see that the bill establishes weak criteria where many inmates would be entitled to a court hearing to reconsider their original sentence. This criterion includes availing themselves of education programs in prison such as self-study – which is a ridiculously low standard to meet. A prisoner meeting these guidelines does not have to prove that he has truly recognized the error of his ways.
Even worse, SB 9 could reopen the painful wounds of many crime victim families on up to three separate occasions. If an inmate’s request for re-sentencing is denied the first time, he can try two more times, an agonizing ordeal for any family to go through. Instead of showing compassion to criminals, I suggest showing some compassion to their victims and families, who deserve justice and who expect the state to uphold the people’s will.
SB 9 is not about ensuring fairness, but rather undermining the strong public safety laws that have kept the worst of the worst behind bars. Keep in mind we are not talking about kids who broke into someone’s car qualifying for a reduced sentence, but potentially giving dangerous criminals a break who brutally murdered their victims. That makes no sense.
Finally, the state already has a system in place to ensure that those who showed genuine rehabilitation in prison can have a shot at a lighter sentence. Prisoners and their families can petition the Governor for a commutation, and previous Governors have granted commutations when the circumstances warranted it.
Although SB 9 fell one vote short of passage in the Assembly, it could come back for a vote in the near future if liberal Democrats can find one other moderate Democrat to vote for it. I will continue to work with the public safety community and crime victim families to ensure that SB 9 does not get that one additional vote. Keeping our communities safe must always remain our top priority.
Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, represents the 3rd Assembly District in the California Legislature.