In 2012 California State Senator Leland Yee, who appeared before San Francisco Superior Court in shackles this morning, accomplished one of his long term legislative goals with the passage of Senate Bill 9. This law gives a second chance to most killers who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crime and sentenced to life without parole. They can ask the court for a new sentencing hearing. At that hearing, they will have the chance of getting a new sentence with the possibility of parole.
The Senator spoke eloquently about the resilience of youth when he said, “Young people have an incredible capacity for rehabilitation. Sentencing them to life without parole is tantamount to simply throwing them away, without acknowledging their ability to grow, change, and become productive members of society.” What the Senator failed to mention is that unrepentant killers, who were sentenced to life without parole by a jury of their peers would be released back onto our streets with few if any controls on their future behavior.
“Young people often make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes have terrible consequences,” said Yee.” Yes Senator, lives are lost, families are destroyed, and many will never recover, but to define cold blooded murder as a mistake is to misunderstand the consequences of the one crime whose outcome is finality. Mistakes can be reconciled, and oftentimes they can be resolved, but murder is different. There is no taking back, there is no resolution, there is only the terrible reality that a person who was loved, cherished and valued has been sent to a violent and early grave.
The Senator said that, “We cannot write any child off for the rest of their lives. We must at least give them the chance to atone and seek forgiveness for what they’ve done.” Well, this may very well be true, but why do we have to release them from prison in order for them to seek atonement and forgiveness? Aren’t these acts of compassion, thought and emotion? Aren’t atonement and forgiveness more easily earned through acts of self-sacrifice and isn’t self-sacrifice more easily achieved through introspection? The Senator is very quick to forgive the killer as he forgets the victim.
Now it all begins to make sense. Charges against Senator Yee included conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms. Perhaps is eloquence on behalf of teen killers was simply protecting his real constituents, the gang banger’s who use illegal high caliber weapons to wreak havoc on our fellow citizens.
I have a friend whose wife was murdered by a teen-aged psychopath who wanted to know what it felt like to “murder somebody.” After he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole he swore that if he ever got out of prison he would murder the rest of this victim’s family. Senator Yee’s SB 9 will give him an opportunity to do just that.
Thank you for your service Senator Leland Yee.