Tuesday, October 25, 2016

People v. Lopez (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 25, 2016)

Raul Lopez and Freddie Chacon were 16 when they kidnapped a CYA librarian as part of an effort to escape from the CYA facility.  During this process, they also assaulted her and stabbed another CYA instructor with a shank.  They were both sentenced to LWOP.

A series of legal challenges followed.  Mr. Lopez and Mr. Chacon served nearly 25 years in prison each, but ultimately had their sentences reduced and were released from prison.  The Attorney General filed an appeal, but the Court of Appeal affirms,

Wholly beyond the merits of the statutory dispute, I think a couple of things practically help to explain the Court of Appeal's ruling.  For one thing, the defendants were 16, and no one got killed.  For another, both of the defendants ultimately ended up spending nearly a quarter century -- a very long time -- in prison.

Finally -- and I think this matters a fair piece -- upon being released from prison, one defendant is promptly deported to Mexico to live with his family there and another one is put on probation for five years and told that if he makes even a tiny mistake he's going back to prison for life.

I think those facts give the Court of Appeal some comfort in the conclusion that what they've done here is in fact just.  Or, at a minimum, not exceptionally likely to result in a harm to public safety.