New State Law Frees San Diego Man From Life Sentence
Speaker 1: 00:00 A San Diego man is out of prison 33 years before his first parole date because of a new state law. Kent Williams is believed to be the first prisoner in the state to be re-sentenced under ab 29 42 it's a law that expands three strikes, re-sentencing, which started after voters amended the law in 2012 this law allows prosecutors to review cases that don't fit those guidelines but are determined to be unjustly harsh. Journey me is San Diego County chief Deputy Da. Duane Woodley and welcome to the program. Ken Williams was originally sentenced under the three strikes law to a sentence of 50 to life. What were the crimes he was sentenced for? Speaker 2: 00:44 He was sentenced for two residential burglaries. One of those residents or burger loses as hot prowl where hot prowl allegation, which makes it a violent offense on the California penal code section and also a, um, Speaker 1: 00:56 and that was back in 2003. Correct. I want to go into that hot prowl burglary and talk a little bit more about what that is because that was the case that made his case ineligible for the original review under the 2012, uh, voters amendment. Correct. Tell us what a hot prowl is. Speaker 2: 01:15 Browse when someone goes into a residence where the occupant or owner of the residence is present at the time they go into that home to commit that a residential burglary. Speaker 1: 01:25 And that's viewed as a violent offense? Correct. Okay. The new law Ab 29 42 expands prosecutors re sentencing discretion. Tell us a little about that. Speaker 2: 01:35 So Ab 29 42, um, allows for the district attorney to petition a court to consider re-sentencing any defendant on any case. And so prior to that passing of that law, the district attorney didn't have the power to be able to bring a case back before the court to have the court take another look at it and review it and determine whether or not that sentence was appropriate based on whatever the circumstances have changed from the time they were originally sentenced. Speaker 1: 02:02 And what was it about this case that you felt was a good fit for this new law? Speaker 2: 02:07 So when I was assigned to review the matter Bar District Attorney Summer Stephen, I took a look at Mr. Williams. Prior cases, took a look at his California department corrections file, has performance while he's been in prison, got information from his family. I took a look at the last 12 to 15 cases with a similar profile of Mr. Williams that we have had currently in San Diego County and looked at what the sentences were on those cases compared to, to what Mr. Williams sentence was from ninth, 2003. And you know, weighed the public safety concerns with, uh, the things that Mr. Williams did while he was in prison in custody and things that people said about him and presented that to our district attorney who made the decision in this case to petition the court to have Mr. Williams resized. Speaker 1: 02:52 And how did the case come to the district attorney's office attention to begin with? Speaker 2: 02:56 Pastor Cornelius Bowzer, who's a community activist, brought the case to our DA's attention and she assigned me to review it. Speaker 1: 03:05 As you were reviewing the case, I was reading articles about this. It said that Mr. Williams turned his life around while he was in prison. Speaker 2: 03:13 Can you tell us more about that? What did he do and looking as his prior criminal history, Mr. Williams, uh, appear to have substance abuse issue that was pretty evident as you review, as per our criminal cases. So Mr. Williams, why he's in custody, he got, um, and went to n a a, he completely addressed this substance abuse problem. Why was in custody the program that's available at the Department of Corrections. And then he also decided to, uh, mentor young people in prison, um, folks that specifically were going to get out of prison to help them turn their lives around. Um, he did that at a time when there was no hope for him to be released from prison. He was still faced in 50 a life sentence. So, even though he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison, he still wanted to do something productive for society. And so he went about going about mentoring young people, um, and help them turn their lives around and learn from the mistakes that he had made. That was all pretty evident from reviewing his file and um, talking to some of the corrections officers as well that observed him while he was in custody and in some of his behavior. And so that gave us a lot of comfort in making this decision based on how he had turned his life around. Speaker 1: 04:19 So Mr. Williams was sentenced to 50 to life for two burglaries and car theft. What kinds of offenses would a lengthy sentence like that be a reserved for these days? Speaker 2: 04:30 Well, it could, it varies. It also depends on what your prior record is, but you know, anywhere between 18 and 24 years of what people currently were being sentenced for 16 to 24 years currently. That, and looking at the case that we've had over the last several years, so that was about the range. None of those folks got a indeterminate term, which is basically a life sentence. They all got a determined term, which means they were to have a parole date. And so when you're looking at what we're currently doing compared to what Mr. Williams was sentenced from in 2003, that's why we thought that that may have been on a harsh lease. Did harsh sentence at the time compared to what's happening currently, is there any way to estimate how many people who are in prison now might be able to take advantage of this new law? No, not really. Speaker 2: 05:12 I mean, it depends on a review of the records. Everybody's case is different on a case by case basis. Um, you know, part of the consideration was, uh, Mr. Williams has a lot of family support, um, that had community support that help would help him make that transition from prison to the community. Um, as you heard yesterday me, he has a job, he has a family and friends, his faith, his church all are supporting him. And that was all part of the consideration as well. That helped, uh, make RDA comfortable with this decision because he not only had a plan for when he got out of prison, he had family support to help him and he had done a lot of things to turn his life around. Speaker 1: 05:49 Are there any other offenders that the San Diego County DA's office is looking at prisoners that may be re-sentenced under 29 42 yes. We currently have several petitions that we're reviewing currently that are under consideration. One of the same type of treatment. I've been speaking with San Diego County chief Gipd da Duane Woodley. Thank you very much. Thank you.