A California man is now eligible for parole under a state law that allows inmates serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed as minors to be re-sentenced.
Edel Gonzalez is the first such inmate to be re-sentenced under the 2011 state law, which was sponsored by San Francisco Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee.
Gonzalez has been behind bars for 22 years, but on Dec. 12 he was re-sentenced to 25 years to life, meaning he will be eligible for parole from Ironwood State Prison in just three years.
When he was 16 years old in August 1991, an unarmed Gonzalez participated in a carjacking gone awry in Orange County. The victim, 50-year-old Janet Bicknell, was killed during the robbery. Gonzalez, a former gang member, received the same maximum sentence — life in prison without possibility of parole — as the adult accomplice, a fellow gang member who pulled the trigger.
But now, Gonzalez is the first inmate to be granted a new chance at life on the outside thanks to the California Fair Sentencing for Youth Act.
On Wednesday, Yee announced the results of Gonzalez’s re-sentencing hearing. The state senator, a former child psychologist, sponsored the bill — SB 9 — that was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011.
“Young people have an incredible capacity for rehabilitation,” Yee said. “Sentencing them to life without parole is tantamount to simply throwing them away without acknowledging their ability to grow, change and become productive members of society.”
The law enables courts to rescind life-without-parole sentences after 15 years served for individuals whose offenses were committed while they were under the age of 18. The inmate has to have demonstrated good behavior and remorsefulness while in prison, and pose a low risk of re-offending.
“Despite awaking every morning with near certainty that he would die in prison, Mr. Gonzalez became a model prisoner, avoiding gangs, drugs and violence, taking advantage of educational opportunities and finding religion,” said Marshall Camp, an attorney for Gonzalez. “We are grateful Judge Thomas Goethals recognized that Mr. Gonzalez is worthy of redemption.”