By: Susan Meeker
There is no guarantee convicted murderer Nathan Ramazzini will ever get out of jail under California’s new resentencing law, but his hope of eventual release will likely center on whether his defense can show he is rehabilitated enough to have his sentence of life without the possibility of parole commuted to 25 years to life with the possibility of parole for the planning and brutal slaying of his childhood best friend, Erik Ingebretsen, when they were both just 16 years old.
Ramazzini’s four-day hearing got underway Tuesday in Colusa County Superior Court, where Judge Jeffrey A. Thompson will ultimately have to rely on the testimonies of expert witnesses, evidence from the trial, including video of original interviews of Ramazzini and Leo Contreras, who was involved in the murder and served nearly 20 years in prison prior to his release on parole, and victim witness statements.
Thompson said it would be typical for the original judge to oversee Ramazzini’s resentencing but that Williams S. Abel is now retired and unavailable.
Abel ruled in 1997 that Ramazzini be tried as an adult, and eventually handed down a life sentence without any possibility of Ramazzini ever being released from prison.
The hearing is expected to last through Friday, with nearly 100 items, including prison reports and psychological reports, will be put into evidence. It is also likely that Ramazzini will testify on his own behalf.
District Attorney Matthew Beauchamp, like his predecessor John Poyner, who oversaw the original trial, believes that Ramazzini should remain in prison for life because he exhibited and continued to exhibit severe anti-social and high-risk behavior even after he was sent to prison. Ramazzini was disciplined for stabbing two inmates on two separate occasions, participating in a riot, and numerous instances of disregarding authority. Beauchamp said.
Most of Tuesday’s testimony was that of Nancy Kaser-Boyd, a Los Angeles-based clinical and forensic psychologist, who championed the passage of SB 9, and believes that research now shows that murderers convicted as teenagers can be rehabilitated to become functional members of society once the brain is fully developed around age 25. Rammizini is now 38.
Kaser-Boyd, who is being paid $200 an hour for her expert testimony in this case, testified that because the frontal regions of the brain are not fully developed until the mid-20s, adolescents and teenagers who commit a serious and heinous crime do so without fully realizing the consequences of their actions.
Kaser-Boyd, who interviewed Ramazzini in 2016 and administered a personality test typically used to assess personality disorders, testified that she did not find that Ramazzini had an identifiable mental defect that would preclude him from being able to change and control his behavior now that he has actively participated in full rehabilitation.
Ramazzini has been nearly a model prisoner the past five years, she said, and has completed high school and earned an associate’s degree. He has also attended numerous anger management and other self-help and 12-step programs.
Beauchamp dismissed her interpretation of the results of the 344-question test because the computer-generated results indicated that Ramazzini’s risk for antisocial disorder was greater than 99 percent of the general population, and that he has never particularly shown remorse for the killing.
Beauchamp believes that Ramazzini’s behavior at the time of the killing stems to deeper pathology than just bad but correctable behavior of a youth. Ramazzini saved the bat he used to inflect multiple lethal blows to Ingebretsen as a souvenir, but threw away his bloody shoes and clothing, before joining the search party for his missing friend. Beachamp also said Ramazzini bragged that he enjoyed the sound of a knife entering Ingebretsen’s body to other inmates while he awaited trial. Those are facts that Beauchamp said cannot be easily dismissed as youthful transgressions.
Beauchamp also said that Kaser-Boyd’s own testimony indicated that what Ramazzini told her was not truthful, as she did not know many of the particulars of the case, and that Ramazzini today still insists that the murder was the result of peer pressure from Contreras and Freddie Garcia, who was never charged or convicted for the murder.
According to Kiser-Boyd’s testimony, Ramazzini also stated that his behavior in prison was also because he was forced to go along with an Aryan gang in order to survive.
However, Kaser-Boyd did say that it is not likely that someone with a psychopathic disorder could control anti-social behavior for a period of five years as Ramazzini has done.
When Beauchamp argued that Ramazzini’s behavior changed only when the law changed, Kaser-Boyd agreed, and said that behavior can and does change when an inmate serving life has hope.
On Wednesday, the hearing will begin with Beauchamp’s cross-examine of defense witness William Adams, who also testified that Ramazzini has made considerable effort at rehabilitation and has exhibited good behavior the past five years in prison.
Poyner, who is attending the hearing, told the Pioneer Review during a court break that he does not believe Ramazzini should ever be released.
While Poyner argued against Contreras’ parole, he acknowledged that Contreras has shown genuine remorse for the crime, and has written the Ingebretsen family extensively over the years to apologize for his role in the murder that the original trial determined Ramazzini had planned and executed.
“(Ramazzini) won’t change,” Poyner said. “He can’t change.”