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Proposition 57 Kicking High-Profile Cases Back to Juvenile Court

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SACRAMENTO -- A new twist in a high-profile teen murder case is being linked to the election results. The teen accused of gunning down former high school football player J.J. Clavo was set to be tried as an adult. However, because of Proposition 57, that could change.

The same day Dr. Nicole Clavo was honored for her community service stemming from the murder of her son was the same day the person accused of killing him would hit a detour because of a new law.

“You don’t get to do adult things and not face adult consequences,” Clavo said.

J.J. Clavo was just 17 years old when someone walked up to his car and shot him in the neck killing him and injuring another teen in the car. Keymontae Lindsey, the person prosecutors say is responsible, was just 15 years old when he allegedly pulled the trigger.

Lindsey was charged as an adult. He was scheduled for a hearing Friday but it was postponed because of Proposition 57 which may change everything for him.

Much of the Proposition 57 debate focused on the issue of early release for some felons. However, the new law also contains a provision about juvenile justice. Now, instead of prosecutors deciding whether to try juveniles as adults, juvenile court judges will make that decision. Even cases like Clavo's murder that’s been going through the legal system for nine months can be referred back to juvenile court for evaluation.

“I think it’s unfair and unjust for those cases that have already been in place for the last year or more, or six months, or however long it’s been, that these families now have to sit and ponder whether or not these murders are going to get away with killing their loved one," Clavo said.

While unwelcome news for the families of victims, the retroactive review is exactly what families of juvenile suspects are looking for.

Garcia’s 16-year-old has been in jail over a year and a half, waiting to be tried as an adult for armed robbery.

“It went straight to calling me and telling me my son was incarcerated and then that he was in trouble, and the first day of court was adult court,” Garcia said.

As a member of the group “Broderick is a Community Not a Gang” Garcia has been outspoken in her opposition to prosecutors alone being able to decide whether or not juveniles will face adult court. Garcia says, thanks to Proposition 57, a juvenile judge will now review her son’s case to decide whether it belongs in juvenile or adult court.

“That’s the best part of Prop 57 -- the fitness trial,” Garcia said.

A classic case of where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit. Clavo said she doesn’t fundamentally disagree with putting juvenile charging decisions in the hands of judges not prosecutors.

“I don’t have a problem with the judges making the decision if they had been making the decision out the gate; the retro part of the law is the part I’m having the most difficulty with,” Clavo said.

Garcia said she can’t imagine being in Clavo’s place.

“I think it’s benefiting us; I couldn’t speak for a mother who went through such a tragedy," Garcia said. "I couldn’t imagine going through that."