State Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) this week announced the introduction of a bill that would reform mandatory sentencing laws.
Senate Bill 300 would eliminate a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for people convicted of a murder charge with special circumstances who did not commit the murder themselves.
Under current state law, the mandatory sentence for murders with “special circumstances” such as occurring during a robbery or burglary or other crime, is death or life in prison without the possibility of parole—even if the person was an accomplice who did not kill anyone or intend to do so.
SB 300 will give judges the ability to decide whether the special circumstance allegation should be found true for sentencing purposes, which would decide whether the person would be eligible for parole.
“Sentencing someone to die in prison by death penalty or without parole, is virtually unheard of in much of the world,” Cortese said in announcing the bill earlier this week. “California not only regularly imposes these sentences but requires judges to impose life without the possibility of parole for certain categories of offenses even on defendants who did not kill or intend a person to be killed.”
SB 300 would also provide an avenue for incarcerated people to petition the court for re-sentencing, offering recourse to hundreds of Californians awaiting execution or condemned to die in prison.
Cortese said SB 300 would give them the opportunity to be re-sentenced and the possibility to earn parole through rehabilitative programming, work, and good behavior.
SB 300 will require a two-thirds vote in both the state Assembly and Senate and be signed by the governor to go into effect.