The Honorable Senators Cortese and Durazo
California State Senate
1021 O Street, Suite 6640
Sacramento, CA 95814
Subject: SB 300, Crimes: murder: punishment.
Dear Senators Cortese and Durazo
As California resident, I am writing to express my opposition to Senate Bill 300.
Special circumstance allegations are additional factors that are proven to a jury that demonstrate a murder was particularly heinous or calculated.
SB 300 gives judges the authority to reduce the punishment for a defendant by dismissing special circumstance findings found true at trial or admitted by the defendant.
Voters, through Proposition 115, known as the Crime Victims Justice Reform Act, rejected a judge’s unilateral authority to dismiss special circumstance allegations. This voter-enacted initiative prohibits a judge from striking or dismissing any special circumstance which is admitted by plea or found true by a jury or court.
Since this law directly undoes the will of the voters through a state proposition process, it needs two-thirds support from the Legislature.
Additionally, Prop. 115 authorized the filing of special circumstances against accomplices to 1st degree murders who jurors determined played a significant role in the murder and demonstrated a reckless indifference to human life during the murder of the victim.
Senate Bill 300 seeks to prohibit an accomplice in a special circumstance murder (e.g., murder because of race, during a sexual offense, with torture or kidnapping, etc.) who was not the actual killer from being charged, convicted, or sentenced for the crime of special circumstance murder, despite their major participation in the murder.
While the author provides some compelling examples as to why the bill is necessary in the interest of justice, the bill overlooks the fact that defendants are already able under current law to seek sentencing reconsiderations.
SB 300 creates a dangerous one-size-fits-all approach that not only circumvents due process but provides a possibility for a lesser sentence for the worst offenders.
For example, multiple defendants who participate in binding or subduing victims or who participate in a sexual assault prior to the killing of a victim – cases in which it is difficult to distinguish the actual killer from the aider and abettor - would all benefit under SB 300 as none of the defendants would face the special circumstance allegation for their crime.
For these reasons, I am in opposition to SB 300.