LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A man who was sentenced to life in prison two decades ago — for a murder he committed as a minor — now has hopes of one day becoming a free man.
Edel Gonzalez says he is a changed man and his advocates say he shows remorse for the 1991 murder that took place in Orange County.
KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports Gonzalez is believed to be the first inmate re-sentenced under the California Sentencing for Youth Act known as SB 9.
His sentence was recently reduced from life to 25 years to life. He may get to one day go in front of a parole board.
His sister, Lydia Oregel, said Gonzalez was shocked.
“He was surprised. He wasn’t really sure it was happening,” she said.
Elizabeth Calvin, a senior advocate with Human Rights Watch, says Gonzalez was “jumped” into a gang when he was 11 years old.
“He had never met his father and turned to older gang members as male role models. He became fully ensconced with the gang lifestyle and criminal activity. When he was 16, he was with two adult gang members, and they attempted to steal a car. Edel stopped the car, and an adult co-defendant, unexpectedly killed the woman inside,” she said.
Gonzalez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on November 5, 1993.
Calvin said Gonzalez is a “completely different” person now and “deeply remorseful for what he did.”
SB 9 allows some inmates — serving a life sentence for a crime committed before turning 18 — to petition for parole after serving 15 years.
Phyllis Loya, who’s on the board the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers, said the law — known as SB 9 — is unfair to victims’ families.
“I really feel for the victim’s family in this case,” Loya said. “I’m sure the family members of the victim in this case, Janet Mitchell (aka Janet Bicknell), has missed her every day.”
Mitchell, 49, was a teacher’s aide.
Now that her brother has a chance of getting out of prison, Oregel said Gonzalez would like to “share his story”
“He wants to to talk to other kids, those going in that wrong direction, and help them turn their lives around,” said Oregel.