Senate Bill 1437 (SB 1437) : The BESTT Practices Act

Last year, California took a critical first step in reforming the felony murder rule by passing Senate Concurrent Resolution 48 (SCR 48) through the state legislature. This year, SB 1437, also known as the BESTT Practices Act, aims to instill this necessary change.

The felony murder rule comes from English common law. It has since been abolished in all common law jurisdictions, except the United States, for being unjust. Under the felony murder rule, a person can be criminally liable for first-degree murder even when he/she did not intend for a killing to occur or aid the killing in any way. A death may be accidental, unintentional, and unforeseen, but as long as it occurred during the course of, or flight from certain crimes, all participants – whether one performed the homicidal act or not, knew a co-participant was armed, or was even at the scene of the killing – is liable for first-degree murder.

The California Supreme Court has repeatedly urged that California abolish the felony murder rule. As far back as 1965 and repeated in 1983, in People v. Dillon, the California Supreme Court called the felony murder rule “barbaric.” However, the California Supreme Court does not have the authority to abolish it; only the Legislature has that power. The California high court asked the Legislature to make that change 35 years ago. The Legislature is now heeding that call.

In California, the felony murder rule disproportionately affects youth, people of color, and women. It has resulted in incredibly lengthy life sentences - draining taxpayer dollars - for people who never killed anyone, nor intended that a death occur.

SB 1437 will reform the felony murder rule and amend accomplice liability in certain types of second-degree murder. This act retains felony murder liability for the person who kills during the course of certain felonies. It would only abolish felony murder liability for an accomplice: a person who did not personally commit the homicidal act or intend that a homicide occur. This act would also limit judicially-created doctrines for second-degree murder liability.

It's time California acknowledges that this law can be applied unfairly and in some cases, has caused disproportionately long sentences for people who did not commit murder. It's time for us to advocate for change.


THE TIMELINE OF SB 1437

THE WORD ON #SB1437

THE STORIES OF THOSE DIRECTLY IMPACTED



If He Didn't Kill Anyone,
Why is it Murder?

Life in Prison:
Felony Murder

The Elkhart 4:
A Burglary Gone Wrong

Ryan Holle:
Serving Life for Providing Car

Tung Nguyen:
Post-Incarceration Under FMR
as a Vietnamese Refugee

Jessica Aguirre:
Fiancé Incarcerated
Under the Felony Murder Rule

Robert Garcia:
Incarcerated as a Juvenile
Under the Felony Murder Rule

Joanne Scheer:
A Mother's Love - Tony's Story

SUPPORTERS

The BESTT Practices Act (SB 1437), authored by Senator Nancy Skinner (SD 9), is proudly sponsored by Re:store Justice.

We are grateful for the support and dedication of our co-sponsors and coalition :


Advocates for Justice, Central Valley
American Friends Service Committee
Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) (co-sponsor)
ACLU of Northern California
Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries
Beit T'Shuvah
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
California Coalition of Women Prisoners (co-sponsor)
Californians for Safety and Justice (co-sponsor)
Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB)
California Public Defenders Association
California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
CARES for Youth (co-sponsor)
Catholic Worker Hospitality House
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
Center for Juvenile Law and Policy - Loyola
Community Housing Partnership
Community Works West
Courage Campaign
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
East Side Studios
Fair Chance Project
Felony Murder Elimination Project (co-sponsor)
Full Moon Pickles and Catering
Friends Committee on Legislation of California
Human Rights Watch
Initiate Justice (co-sponsor)
Insight Prison Project
Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (co-sponsor)
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Los Angeles Catholic Worker
Mothers of Black Boys (MOBB) United
NAACP Modesto/Stanislaus Chapter
Pacific Juvenile Defender Center (co-sponsor)
Pillars of the Community
Place4Grace
Prison Activists Resource Center
Prisoner Advocacy Network
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity
Restore Justice (co-sponsor)
Riverside Temple Beth El
Root & Rebound
Rubicon Programs
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Bay Area, Long Beach
Silicon Valley De-Bug
Sister Inmate
Survived and Punished
The Modesto/Stanislaus NAACP
Time for Change Foundation
USC Gould School of Law Post-Conviction Justice Project (co-sponsor)
USF School of Law Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinic and Racial Justice Clinic (co-sponsor)
United Auto Workers Local 2865
United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 648
WE ARE HERE TO HELP
White People 4 Black Lives, Los Angeles Showing Up for Racial Justice Affiliate
Women's Center For Creative Work
Women’s Council of the California Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers
Young Womens Freedom Center
Youth Justice Coalition (co-sponsor)

PRESS COVERAGE

Slate & The Appeal


A killer who didn't kill

Daily Journal


Felony murder bill addresses natural &
probable consequences & promotes justice

Los Angeles Times


California could soon limit who
can be charged with felony murder

San Francisco Chronicle


Bill to overturn California’s murder-accomplice
rule gets Assembly approval

NowThis


California & Overturning
the Felony Murder Rule

Los Angeles Times


Punish for the crimes they've committed,
not for murders they didn't do

Associated Press


California considers limiting broad
‘felony murder’ law

Sacramento Bee


He’s in jail for a murder he didn’t witness.
A California bill might set him free.

Orange Country Register


It’s time for CA to reform the felony-murder rule.
Pass SB1437.

New York Times & Marshall Project


If He Didn't Kill Anyone, Why is it Murder?

Los Angeles Times


Activists urge change to law that allows accomplices
in crimes to be sentenced for felony murder

NPR's KQED Forum


California Bill Seeks to Overturn Rule that
Charges Accomplices with Murder

NPR's KPCC - Air Talk


Should CA roll back its ‘felony murder rule’?

ABC


New law could mean freedom for several
convicted in the Central Valley

JJIE


California Accomplices to a Felony
Shouldn’t Be Sentenced Like the Murderer

NPR's KQED - The California Refort


Not the Killer, But Charged with Murder?
Lawmakers Weigh Changing 'Felony Murder' Law

American Bar Association


CA considering end to felony murder rule

KNX 1070


CA Bill Moving Through Legislature Could
Eliminate 'Felony Murder Rule'

San Quentin News


New CA Youth Offender Bills

East County Today


Trio of Senator Skinner Bills
Move Forward

GUIDES & RESOURCES









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