In their fight to keep a convicted murderer behind bars, the Colusa County District Attorney’s Office is taking on a new opponent: the State of California.
Last week, the Colusa County District Attorney’s Office filed a Petition for Writ of Prohibition with the State’s 3rd District Court of Appeal, requesting that the court issue a writ directing the Board of Parole Hearings vacate its grant of a parole hearing date to Nathan Ramazzini, and also to issue an order denying enforcement of Senate Bill 394 statewide.
According to the writ filed on June 18, it is the opinion of the Colusa County District Attorney’s Office that Senate Bill 394 – which granted parole hearings to inmates sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed before the age of 18 – was passed in violation of the California Constitution. The argument made by the District Attorney’s Office is that SB 394 effectively amended a law previously established by a voter initiative (Proposition 115, also known as the “Crime Victims Justice Reform Act”), which included a statute that required any amendments be passed by a two-thirds vote in each house of the state legislature. The bill in question (SB 394) was passed by the Assembly 44-30-5 – a 56 percent vote – on September 15 of last year, before moving to the Senate, where it passed 28-9-3. It was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on October 11, 2017. Because the bill was not a properly passed amendment of Proposition 115, the District Attorney’s office stated, SB 394 could not remain in effect without violating the California Constitution.
“It is the District Attorney’s position that SB 394 improperly amended Penal Code section 190.5(b), a statute created by Proposition 115, without a two-thirds vote in the State Assembly,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
While the scope of the writ is far-reaching, it stems directly from Ramazzini’s case, and the fact that he will be eligible for parole on July 16, 2021, pursuant to the passage of Senate Bill 94. Ramazzini was 16 years old when he murdered Eric Ingebretson. He was convicted of first degree murder with a special circumstance of lying in wait, and sentenced to serve Life Without Parole in 1998.
“We are fighting the release of the murderer Ramazzini on multiple fronts,” District Attorney Matthew Beauchamp stated in the press release. “Because of the extreme changes in the criminal law in recent years, murderers like Ramazzini have multiple opportunities to request release from custody. At present, my office is contesting Ramazzini’s motion to be re-sentenced pursuant to Penal Code section 1170(d).
Simultaneously, we are challenging his current parole date granted to him as a result of the passage of SB 394 (Penal Code Section 3051), (which was) signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.
“Chief Deputy District Attorney Brendan Farrell and I have spent a significant amount of time, researching the new laws, writing legal briefs and now drafting a writ to the Court of Appeal, all in an effort to simply have a dangerous killer serve the just sentence that he received,” Beauchamp continued. “We will persist in these efforts because Nathan Ramazzini should never get out of prison.”
Ramazzini’s case is on for a resetting of an evidentiary hearing regarding his motion to recall his sentence pursuant to Penal Code Section 1170 today at 10 AM. As for the writ, it will be some time before anything moves forward.
“Well, the court of appeal reads it. They can deny outright or ask for a briefing schedule, and then whoever briefs for the board of prison terms would file an opposition, then we’d respond to that. Then there’d be oral arguments,” Beauchamp said. “They could also agree with us in the first instance, but I doubt that would happen. It’ll be a while. Nothing moves fast in the appellate world.”