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Only 2 in California likely to have sentences reviewed

In the state, few juveniles are serving life terms for crimes other than murder.

May 18, 2010|By Carol J. Williams, Times Staff Writer

California prisons hold 249 inmates sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were juveniles, but only two are likely to win review of their sentences following a Monday ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, state prison officials said.


FOR THE RECORD:
Juvenile sentencing: In Tuesday's Section A, an article about California sentences that are likely to be reviewed following a Supreme Court ruling putting limits on prison terms for juveniles contained a paragraph that was incomplete. The phrase "for kidnapping for ransom" was omitted. The paragraph should have read: "A search of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records turned up only two prisoners serving life without the possibility of parole for kidnapping for ransom, one of the few state offenses —along with attempted murder of a police officer -- that can land a juvenile behind bars for life."

Correction officials said only three juvenile offenders in the state have been sent away for life without parole for crimes other than murder, and one was resentenced last year when a state appeals court came to the same conclusion as the high court that the sentence for a youth offender constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

A search of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation records turned up only two prisoners serving life without the possibility of parole, or LWOPPs in the prison vernacular, for kidnapping for ransom, one of the few state offenses — along with attempted murder of a police officer — that can land a juvenile behind bars for life.

The two likely to have their life-without-parole sentences amended are Enedino Marines Calderon, sentenced in Sacramento County in 2004 for kidnapping, false imprisonment and assault with a firearm in a masked attack on a former employee, and Raul Lopez of San Luis Obispo, also sentenced for kidnap for ransom in 1994, said corrections spokesman Bill Sessa.

State Sen. Leland Yee, sponsor of a bill in the state Legislature that would give courts the opportunity to review all life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, hailed the U.S. Supreme Court decision as moving the nation "one step closer to prohibiting juveniles from being sentenced to die in prison." His measure would allow courts to revisit life sentences for juvenile offenses every 10 years and revise them with regard to an inmate's rehabilitation.

Yee contends nearly half of juvenile LWOPPs were not killers, that they acted as lookouts or accomplices and were often peripherally involved in the murder for which they were convicted.

In the case of Antonio Nunez, overturned in April 2009 by the Court of Appeal for the 4th District of California, the then 14-year-old Los Angeles gang member used a semi-automatic weapon to kidnap an immigrant smuggler, demand $100,000 and a kilogram of cocaine as ransom, then fire on pursuing police officers and passing drivers in a failed bid to escape when the payoff was intercepted.

Nunez was resentenced in October — to 186 years instead.

carol.williams@latimes.com

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