In 2015, petitioner Adnan Judeh Nijmeddin was convicted of murder, attempted voluntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon, and possession of narcotics. He was subsequently sentenced to an indeterminate life term. In February 2023, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation recommended that the trial court recall Nijmeddin’s sentence under the new compassionate release provisions.
Assembly Bill 960
Under Assembly Bill 960, which became effective in 2023, Section 1172.2 was added to the California Penal Code and amended the procedures for compassionate release requests. The bill requires the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to make a recommendation for recall or resentencing if an incarcerated person has a serious and advanced illness with an end-of-life-trajectory or is found to be permanently medically incapacitated. Additionally, the bill creates a presumption in favor of recall and resentencing unless the court finds the defendant is an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.
In its recommendation to the trial court, the Health Care Services Director explained that Nijmeddin had advanced incurable pancreatic cancer and other co-morbid medical conditions. Nijmeddin was 65 years old and had a life expectancy of less than a year. However, the Director also noted that Nijmeddin had a criminal history that included assaults and burglaries and committed serious prison violations, including fighting and violent threats. Nijmeddin’s doctor testified that Nijmeddin was likely to be bedbound soon and estimated that he had about 3-6 months to live. Nijmeddin’s brother also testified that he would be Nijmeddin’s caregiver and had no concerns. Unfortunately, the trial court declined to recall Nijmeddin’s sentence on the ground that he posed an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.
Nijmeddin appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in denying compassionate release based on considerations not specifically connected to any current ability to actually commit an offense that poses an unreasonable risk of danger. The appellate court agreed with Nijmeddin, stating that it was undisputed that Nijmeddin had a serious and advanced illness with an end-of-life trajectory and thus was entitled to compassionate release. Furthermore, the trial court did not overcome the presumption by presenting evidence that, based on his current physical and mental condition, Nijmeddin would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. The record lacked any substantial evidence that Nijmeddin, who was severely physically incapacitated and getting worse, was a danger to society. As such, the trial court abused its discretion when it declined to recall Nijmeddin’s sentence.
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