California district attorneys are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to veto two bills they call “dangerous” to public safety — including one that would prohibit 14- and 15-year-old criminal defendants from being tried as adults.
The DAs argue that the bill, which lawmakers approved last week, makes no exception for the worst juvenile offenders.
And as an example, they point to Daniel Marsh.
Five years ago, Marsh stabbed, tortured and mutilated an elderly couple in Davis who had left their window open while they slept. He was 15 years old, and was sentenced to 52-years-to-life. Under the bill, Marsh would be released when he turns 25.
“It’ll take away the ability of a judge to look at these cases and decide: These are so serious and so violent they must be heard in an adult court and held, potentially, for life,” said Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig, whose office prosecuted Marsh.
Victoria Hurd, whose mother was among Marsh’s victims, joined prosecutors in urging the bill’s veto.
“I beg of you, it is a threat to our society to allow those who cannot be saved to walk the streets and kill again,” she said.
When the bill passed the Legislature last week, its authors argued in statements that 14- and 15-year-olds should be given treatment and rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system — rather than sentenced to life in an adult prison — because their brains are not fully developed.
“Keeping youth in the juvenile system does not mean they get off with a slap on the wrist, but they also receive age-appropriate services and programs to rehabilitate and grow into healthy, mature adults,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), adding that California criminal law haas not always treated 14- and 15-year-olds as adults.
“Research has verified for us that 14 and 15 year olds are not pint-sized adults, and we also understand the failing of our adult corrections facilities to address rehabilitation and reentry,” said Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles). “To expect a child to thrive in that area would be foolhardy.”
The other bill the DAs hope Brown will veto would rewrite California's “felony murder” law so that accomplices are not sentenced as harshly as those who commit the actual killings.
Brown has until the end of the month to act on the bills.