Creators of “participatory defense” – a community organizing model for people facing charges, their families, and communities to impact the outcome of cases and transform the landscape of power in the court system
This is Arthur erasing his name from our weekly ACJP meeting. His dad Kenny would add his name up on that whiteboard for years. Last Sunday, Arthur came home from prison after eight years, having beaten a life sentence due to Prop.36, and erased his name. It is the one ceremony we have at our meetings — erasing the name means a family has won the freedom of their loved one.
We had only known Arthur through his letters from prison, and his stories from his father Kenny — that he was a great son and looked out for his brothers. Every Sunday Kenny would come to De-Bug to help think through Arthur’s case. In 2006, Arthur agreed to a deal after he was told that if he pled guilty, his brother — one of the codefendants in the case — would be released. He thought he would be serving somewhere around 8 years. When the Judge handed down a life sentence during his court hearing, everyone in the courtroom was stunned. That was the first time Arthur or his family had even heard of ‘life’ being on the table. So when Kenny first came to De-Bug in 2008, they were still reeling from the pain of losing their son to prison, even though it had already been 2 years. But with the support of his community, Kenny — on the outside — and Arthur on the inside — worked to undo his case. On Sundays, Kenny and the De-Bug team would lay out 4- inch binders of paperwork to help construct possible ways of appeal. We met with his appellate attorneys, wrote back and forth to Arthur, even met with decision-makers to find openings. Meanwhile, Kenny and Arthur held strong — working through depression and a host of health issues that Arthur faced inside the prison. Then when Prop 36 passed in November 2012, a glimmer of hope came. Arthur was contacted by the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s office who represented him at his resentencing. Kenny collected letters of support that demonstrated Arthur’s network that would give him a solid reentry plan, and last year, a judge agreed to release Arthur back to his community. Check out this Time Saved Party video, where Kenny talks about the day he found out his son had an “out date.” On May 5th, he came home. On May 31, 2015 — 7 years after Kenny first walked into the doors of De-Bug — Arthur walked in with him. Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
On Tuesday, November 6th, California voters approved Prop 36, a ballot measure that would reform the Three Strikes Law of 1994. An estimated 3,000 convicted felons serving life sentences for a third strike that was a non-violent crime could now apply to the courts for resentencing. ACJP families are elated at the news knowing that some of their family members could qualify. Lily, whose son Darryl has been serving a life sentence, is ecstatic, and said her son had been anxious about these elections. He had received a letter notifying him that he was eligible for the Prop 36 reforms. In many ways, California has been the trendsetter in the nation when it comes to excessive sentencing. We hope the passage of Prop 36 signals another trend — away from these extremely harsh laws and more humane criminal justice policies. — Submission Post by Charisse Domingo
California Prop. 36: Families of some three-strikers hope for early release or shorter sentences
SAN JOSE — Cashier Debbie Curry woke up Wednesday to find California voters had given her a priceless gift: hope.
By an overwhelming margin, they’d passed Proposition 36 to revise the state’s tough Three Strikes Law.
The new law prohibits judges from imposing a life sentence on most repeat offenders who commit minor crimes. But it also includes a provision that could result in an early release or shorter sentence for Curry’s husband — and up to 3,000 inmates like him who were sentenced to life in prison for nonviolent, relatively minor crimes like stealing a credit card. Continue reading →
Controversy on whether we should keep or be done with the death penalty within California. Where Do you side? -Post submission by Cesar Flores
A law-and-order group on Monday asked a state appeals court to bump a measure off the November ballot that would repeal California’s death penalty, arguing that it violates a state rule against proposing multiple reforms.
The ballot language is “deceptive” and conflicts with the state’s limit of voter initiatives to a single subject, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation argues in a petition filed with the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal.
The foundation brought the lawsuit on behalf of Phyllis Loya, the mother of a Pittsburg police officer fatally shot in 2005 whose killer was sent to death row by a Contra Costa County jury.
The SAFE California Act would abolish the death penalty, clear the state’s death row and replace capital punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole. But the measure also provides for shifting as much as $100 million used for death penalty costs to a fund that would pay for solving murder and rape cases. Continue reading →
At last night’s ACJP meeting at East Valley Pentacostal Church, Becky took a call from a childhood friend who was wrongfully convicted and faces a life sentence. He has been incarcerated for the past 17 years. Today, ACJP begun the work to support him in his path to freedom. In the image, he is calling on speaker phone, with Becky listening while a pile of his paperwork is laid out on the table, waiting for us to review. Just after the call, we found out we got an ACJP member’s case from life to one year in county. So finishing beating one life sentence, and starting the path to beat another. Just another Tuesday night with Becky and the ACJP team at East Valley Pentacostal Church!
In both the federal and state court systems, 9 out of 10 cases end up in a plea bargain, wiping out the notion of your “day in court”. Both Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties are no different. We know families with loved ones serving long prison sentences, had their children taken away, or ended up in deportation proceedings because of a plea bargain gone wrong. But the Supreme Court ruled this week that defendants have a right to competent counsel during the plea bargaining phase of the criminal justice system. This ruling honestly is a little surprising, because you’d think effective assistance of counsel should extend to all phases of the justice system already. But this seals the clarity once and for all. Submission post by Charisse Domingo
Supreme Court expands defendant’s rights in plea deals
In two 5-4 decisions, the Supreme Court rules that defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to a competent lawyer’s advice when deciding whether to accept a plea deal.
By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
Los Angeles Times
March 21, 2012
Reporting from Washington—
Defendants in criminal cases have a constitutional right to a competent lawyer’s advice when deciding whether to accept a plea bargain, the Supreme Court ruled, providing a significant expansion of rights that could have a broad impact on the justice system. Continue reading →
Submission by Gail Noble: Do you feel like your 4th Amendment is being violated if police searched your Blackberry/cell phone during a traffic stop without a warrant? Check out California v. Nottoli, and you decide.
Reported by mulltiple sites, including pogowasright.org (a privacy politics site)
The California Court of Appeal on September 26approved a police officer’s rifling through the cell phone belonging to someone who had just been pulled over for a traffic violation.
Reid Nottoli was pulled over on December 6, 2009 just before 2am as he was taking a female friend home. Santa Cruz County Deputy Sheriff Steven Ryan said Nottoli’s silver Acura TL had been speeding on Highway 1. After speaking with Nottoli on the side of the road, Ryan suspected the 25-year-old was under the influence of a stimulant drug. His license was also expired, so Ryan said he would impound the vehicle. Nottoli asked if his car could stay parked on the side of the road, which was not heavily traveled and out of the way. Ryan refused so that he could conduct an “inventory” search prior to the towing.
Right outside the courtroom moments after the court declared these sisters would get their brother back after seven years of a prison sentence for a crime he did not commit. He was facing 30 years, and won an appeal after an unwavering persistence of his family. These are the faces of courage, justice, and family.