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Monday, September 23, 2019

The Marshall Project: News Inside

Marshall Project
Lawrence Bartley once lived at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a notorious maximum-security prison in Upstate New York. He was an inmate, of course, serving a sentence for second-degree murder, NBC News reports. When he was 17 years old, he was in a gunfight; the year was 1990.

After 27 years, Bartley is now on parole, and he is using his experiences in prison to do good. While he was an inmate at Sing Sing, he shared his story through "Voices From Within;" it's a project that uses incarcerated men and women stories to help young people avoid criminal behavior.

Today, he works for The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that tackles criminal justice issues, according to the article. He had the idea to create a magazine for the incarcerated that includes interesting stories.

New Inside, Prison

The Marshall Project's News Inside is Mr. Bartley's brainchild. His incarceration taught him about what people in prison needed and were being denied. He knew to avoid using stories that "incite unrest" and instead focus on giving prisoners hope and tools that help them believe in themselves.

"I'm just finding a way to reach back. And, on top of that, I'm trying to send a message to everyone incarcerated not to ask the public for sympathy. I don't want anyone to believe that the public owes them anything and they can't do anything without help from the public," said Bartley. "I want them to believe that they can do it because they feel that they are valuable, they feel that they're powerful in they own right, and they can do positive things by themselves."  

News Inside includes stories about how virtual reality is helping juvenile lifers adapt to the outside world upon release, the article reports. Other examples include Shakespeare in prison or to pilot programs helping rehabilitate young offenders.

"It was Lawrence's brainchild because, having been incarcerated, he understood so keenly what incarcerated people were denied," said Susan Chira, the Marshall Project's editor-in-chief. "And I think that's why it's been so important to have him on our staff because he can help us reach a whole new audience who need work that's written by people who know about the criminal justice system and who understand it in a deep and rigorous way."

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or your loved one is in legal trouble, please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower. His decades of experience makes him uniquely equipped to help achieve favorable outcomes to unfortunate situations. Attorney Brower specializes in several areas of law, ranging from assault to white-collar crimes.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

AB 1185: Overseeing Sheriffs

AB 1185
The use of force is a topic of discussion that we need to have in the United States. Each year, many unarmed individuals die from interactions with peace officers. A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about California Assembly Bill 392. The bill, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, redefines the circumstances under which a homicide by a peace officer is deemed justifiable.

As we pointed out, AB 392 takes effect on January 2020. While lawmakers and pundits across the state were focused on the landmark bill, another piece of legislation was quietly in the works.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, wrote a bill that would increase oversight of sheriffs departments in California, The Sacramento Bee reports. Assembly Bill 1185 would allow counties to create separate supervision bodies to oversee sheriffs’ departments.

“Because of the current lack of oversight, we’ve seen taxpayers foot the bill for millions of dollars as a result of legal fees racked up due to allegations of misconduct against deputies, jailers, and sheriff’s department employees,” said McCarty. “There have been countless examples all over the state that have demonstrated how important it is that we ensure that supervisors, sheriff oversight boards, and the inspector general have the authority necessary to conduct proper oversight so they can do their jobs.” 

Advocacy Groups Support AB 1185

The California State Sheriffs’ Association has called the bill “unnecessary,” according to the article. However, the American Civil Liberties Union of California pointed out that the “Misuse of (sheriffs departments) can lead to grave constitutional violations, harms to liberty and the inherent sanctity of human life, and significant public unrest.”

AB 1185 came about after Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones arrested Inspector General Rick Braziel last year in the course of investigating a police shooting in 2017. The Sacramento County Grand Jury determined that Sheriff Jones was within his rights when he slowed Braziel’s work.

However, the grand jury wrote that Sacramento county has to put in place a system for preventing sheriffs' departments from halting similar investigations. McCarty’s bill aims to do just that; we will continue to follow this story as it develops.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Please reach out to The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you are facing criminal charges in California. Attorney Brower has a reputation for helping clients find favorable outcomes in their cases. With more than three decades of experience, Mr. Brower is an excellent choice for anyone needing legal representation.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Senate Bill 136: Sentencing Enhancements

Senate Bill 136
In 1994, California voters passed the "Three Strikes and You're Out" law. It was a form of sentence enhancement imposing a life sentence for almost any conviction, provided a defendant had at least two prior convictions for serious or violent crimes.

We know that the three-strikes rule led to an ever-rising prison population across the state and created other problems that still need to be addressed. Draconian sentencing laws are not unique to California; most states utilize mandatory minimum sentencing laws that mostly affect nonviolent drug offenders. Almost always, minorities are affected most by seemingly arbitrary sentencing laws.

As some of you well know, California has taken steps in recent years to right some wrongs when it comes to criminal justice. In 2012, voters passed Proposition 36, which did away with life sentences for nonviolent and non-serious crimes.

The law's passing also created an avenue of recourse for individuals who received life sentences before Prop 36. Prisoners were allowed to petition the courts to receive a lower sentence in light of their circumstances. It was a step in the right direction, but there is still more to be done.

California Senate Bill 136

In California, there exists a sentencing enhancement allowing judges to tack a year to any new felony sentences when a defendant has a previous felony conviction that resulted in incarceration, The Appeal reports. The enhancement applies regardless of the circumstances of the prior or current convictions.

Senate Bill 136 is currently moving through the state legislature; the bill aims to do away with the sentencing enhancement mentioned above. SB 136 passed the Senate this session and was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on August 30, 2019, according to the ACLU of Southern California. The ACLU writes:  

SB 136 will advance racial justice and fairness and help keep families together. This bill restricts a mandatory one-year sentence enhancement that is added to an individual's base sentence for each prior prison or felony jail term served. Research shows that sentence enhancements like the one addressed by SB 136 do not make our communities safer or deter crime. Instead, these enhancements tear families apart. It's time California move forward toward real justice.


Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges in California, then you can benefit from Attorney Ronald G. Brower's extensive legal experience. For more than 30 years, Mr. Brower has been helping defendants find favorable outcomes to their cases. Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower for a consultation.

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Thursday, September 5, 2019

New Law Redefines Use of Force in California

AB 392
Last month, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 392 into law, redefining the circumstances under which a homicide by a peace officer is deemed justifiable, NPR reports. In the wake of constant and often questionable uses of force, many states have begun to take action.

Most Americans are familiar with controversial cases involving the deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of police officers. After significant public outrage, several lawmakers took to drafting legislation that would change the parameters regarding the use of deadly force.

Pushed forward by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, AB 392 says that police officers may use lethal force only as a "necessary" response to a threat, rather than an "objectively reasonable" one, according to the article. Which means, deadly force is only permissible when there is no other option.

"As California goes, so goes the rest of the United States of America," said Newsom. "And we are doing something today that stretches the boundaries of possibility and sends a message to people all across this country — that they can do more."

Assembly Bill 392

The new law came in the wake of police killings of unarmed black men. Last year, Stephon Clark was shot dead in his grandmother's backyard when police officers mistook a cellphone in Clark's hand for a gun. Moreover, none of the officers involved face criminal charges.

"The reality is, officers rarely face consequences, and families like mine are left to wonder who is policing the police," said Kori McCoy, whose younger brother was killed while sleeping in his car in February. The new law "offers a ray of solace for my family and hope that it will spare other families from bearing this burden with us." 

AB 392 received bipartisan support, and the new law takes effect on January 2020. However, some activist groups no longer support the legislation because of changes made to the bill following concerns raised by police associations.

Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower can help you or a loved one with criminal charges in California. Please contact us today to learn how we can help achieve a favorable outcome for your family. Attorney Brower has decades of experience practicing law and is uniquely equipped to advocate for your interests.

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