As originally written, California’s SB 94 would have allowed judges to review death and life-without-parole sentences for people imprisoned for at least 20 years. The Senate passed the bill last week with 22 votes, one vote more than needed, sending it to the Assembly, but not without significant amendments.
It is now limited to those individuals serving a sentence of life without parole who have been imprisoned for 25 years (originally 20). It will allow only two subsequent petitions for review to be filed (formerly unlimited) after at least three years (formerly two). As in the original bill, the ability to appeal will only be available to individuals convicted of the offense before June 5, 1990.
It is a significant step, even with the amendments, as Sen. Dave Cortese (D-San Jose), the bill’s sponsor, makes clear:
“It is necessary to correct sentences that would not be imposed today because of legal reforms enacted since an individual’s conviction. Judges should have the opportunity to take a second look at these sentences in light of evolving standards of decency and reforms that mandate the consideration of mitigating factors at sentencing such as youth, childhood trauma, victimization, race, military service and mental illness, and in light of changed circumstances, including an individual’s rehabilitation.”