Two men who received life sentences for a brutal sexual assault and robbery in Oakland when they were 19 must be given parole hearings during their 25th year in prison, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday, striking down a state law that made them ineligible.
A California law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017, one of a series of laws reducing mandatory penalties for youthful offenders, allowed those serving potential life terms for crimes committed when they were 25 or under to be considered for parole within either 15, 20 or 25 years of imprisonment, depending on the seriousness of the crime.
The law applied to all crimes, including non-capital murders, except for violent sex offenses subject to lengthy terms under the “one-strike” law enacted in 1994. It did not cover murders punishable by death or life in prison without parole.
Although sex crimes can be horrific and worthy of severe punishment, “there is no crime as horrible as intentional first-degree murder” and no rational basis for treating rapists more harshly than murderers, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco stated in a ruling that, if it stands, will require earlier parole hearings in all such cases.