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Monday, April 16, 2012

2003 Story } California Teen Gets Life In Prison

California Teenager Given Life Sentence
Published: Sunday, June 15, 2003

A teenager who was 14 when he kidnapped a businessman and shot at the police has been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. He is one of the youngest defendants in California history to receive the penalty.

The youth, Antonio Nuñez, now 16, was sentenced on Friday by Judge William Froeberg of Orange County Superior Court, who rejected arguments that the sentence was cruel and unusual punishment.

In addition to life without parole, Mr. Nuñez received four life terms and 121 years. He had been found guilty of attempted murder of a police officer, assault, evading, street terrorism and committing crimes for the benefit of a street gang.

A defense lawyer, Joel Garson, had asked the judge to consider the ''mental maturity'' of Mr. Nuñez, whose reading and math skills were said to be at a second-grade level. He also said Mr. Nuñez had a ''very minor'' past criminal history and a traumatic family life.

Mr. Nuñez was arrested on April 25, 2001, and charged with kidnapping a Santa Ana businessman, Delfino Moreno, and shooting at officers with an AK-47 during a chase. No one was injured.

Juan Diego Perez, 29, Mr. Nuñez's accomplice, was convicted of the same counts and was also sentenced to life without parole in an earlier trial.

A version of this article appeared in print on Sunday, June 15, 2003, on section 1 page 21

Saturday, April 14, 2012

In Memory Of Ashley Smith

Behind the Wall
With guards watching and a video camera rolling, Ashley Smith slowly choked herself to death in a federal prison on Oct. 19, 2007. How could this tragic turn of events have happened? And what does it tell us about the way mentally ill inmates are treated in a prison system that was once the envy of the world? With the inquest into Ashley Smith’s death set to begin, the fifth estate has obtained critical videotape footage that shows Smith’s time in prison and brings unique insight into the full extent of this tragedy.

Convicted at only 15 years of age, Ashley Smith’s original 30-day sentence stretched to four years and included 17 separate transfers by Corrections Canada within a year. In the most in-depth examination of her tragic story yet, the fifth estate also examines the little-known 114 days she spent in early 2007 at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) in Saskatoon. The only psychiatric hospital in the country with a therapeutic healing program designed for women offenders, RPC had Smith locked in segregation after clashing with guards and staff. Shocking revelations come from former nurses, one social worker and a former warden, all of whom stepped forward to share their stories for the first time.

One tip received by the fifth estate led the team to another seriously at-risk RPC inmate whose story is also told as part of the broadcast.

Hana Gartner takes a look at the troubled life that Ashley Smith led behind bars and the sad circumstances surrounding her death.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jordan Brown should be released from custody until his trial in juvenile court.

NEW CASTLE, Pennsylvania - A hearing will be held in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. to determine if teenage murder suspect Jordan Brown should be released from custody until his trial in juvenile court.

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania issued a decision on Friday that the lower court erred in not holding a detention hearing sooner for Brown.

Brown was just 11-years-old when he was arrested and charged with shooting and killing his father's fiancé, Kenzie Marie Houk, and her unborn child. Houk was shot in the back of the head as she slept in her Wampum home.

Now, three years after the crime, at age 14, Brown could be released in to the custody of his father as he awaits his trial in juvenile court.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Colorado bill limiting ability to charge young offenders as adults

Colorado bill limiting ability to charge young offenders as adults heads to governor
Posted: 04/06/2012 01:00:00 AM MDTBy Lynn Bartels

Read more: Colorado bill limiting ability to charge young offenders as adults heads to governor - The Denver Post

A bill that reverses course after Colorado's so-called Summer of Violence is on its way to the governor after a strange day in the Senate.

House Bill 1271 erases a district attorney's ability to file adult charges on low-level felonies against juvenile offenders.

"I've never grappled on a bill more in my life, one way or the other," said Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, who ultimately voted against the measure.

The bill, which passed 22-13, crossed party lines in both the House and the Senate and led to passionate debates over whether there has been overreaching since a spate of gang violence in 1993 inspired tougher laws against young criminals.

Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, said the intent of Colorado's direct-file statute — to punish the most serious, violent teen offenders — had been lost.

"I've worked with kids, at-risk youth, for 27 years. A lot of them have gone to prison," she said. "They may be rehabilitated, but with a felony conviction, they're often doomed to a criminal life."

Under the bill, any 14- or 15-year-old defendant would start in the juvenile system, regardless of his or her alleged crimes. Prosecutors could still charge 16- and 17-year-old defendants as adults in cases of murder, kidnapping and violent assaults.

And prosecutors also could direct file on juveniles accused of crimes of violence who have prior felony-level offenses on their juvenile records.

GOP Sens. Shawn Mitchell of Broomfield and Steve King of Grand Junction, who works in law enforcement, led the fight against the bill.

"We've heard a lot about the defendants' families. What about the victims and their families?" King asked, pounding the lectern.

At one point he showed a poster-size photo of a 17-year-old in a white hoodie holding a gun to the head of a female store clerk.

King sided with prosecutors who predicted the bill would endanger public safety by curbing their ability to stop potentially dangerous juvenile offenders by giving them longer sentences in more prisonlike youth programs.

Lynn Bartels: 303-954-5327 or

Read more: Colorado bill limiting ability to charge young offenders as adults heads to governor - The Denver Post
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Amnesty International Report Blasts Conditions in Arizona’s Prisons

“Cruel Isolation”: Amnesty International Report Blasts Conditions in Arizona’s Prisons
by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway

A report just released by Amnesty International documents and denounces conditons in Arizona's state prisons, including their gross overuse of long-term solitary confinement. A cogent summary of the report's findings appears this morning in the Arizona Republic, in an article by Ortega (who has written before about Arizona's brutal prisons and jails):

Arizona's state prisons overuse solitary confinement in cruel, inhumane and illegal ways, particularly for mentally ill prisoners and juveniles as young as 14, the human-rights group Amnesty International charges in a report to be released today.

According to the report, which is to be delivered to the governor and state lawmakers, Arizona prisons use solitary confinement as a punishment more than most other states or the federal government.

The group found that some inmates are held in isolation for months and sometimes years, and it called on the state to use the practice only as a last resort and only for a short duration.

In addition, it asked that the practice not be used against children or people who are mentally ill or have behavioral disabilities. The group also called on state officials to improve conditions for prisoners in solitary confinement and to act to reduce the high number of suicides in Arizona's prisons.

Arizona Department of Corrections officials said they had not read the report Monday and were unable to comment.

According to the DOC, 3,130 inmates, or 8 percent of the state prison population, were being held in the highest-security, maximum-custody units as of Friday, and most were confined alone.

Although maximum-security inmates include those who are violent and may represent a threat to other inmates or staff, Amnesty noted that Arizona's own figures show that 35 percent of inmates in maximum security were committed for non-violent crimes.

Amnesty International's report cited sources who said prisoners are regularly assigned to maximum security for relatively minor rule violations or disruptive behavior, often because they have mental-health or behavioral problems.

The report noted cases of Arizona inmates who have been in solitary confinement continuously for 15 years. Amnesty said that various international human-rights treaties and experts, including the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Torture, have called on states to limit the use of solitary confinement to exceptional circumstances, for short periods and to prohibit solitary confinement of children 17 and younger.

Amnesty's report found that 14 children 14 to 17 years old had been held in maximum custody at the Rincon unit in the Tucson state prison, under conditions similar to those of adults: 22 to 24 hours a day in their cells, limited exercise alone in a small cage and with no recreational activities.

Because children and adolescents are not fully developed physically and emotionally, they are less equipped to tolerate the effects of isolation, according to studies cited in the report.