California Gov. Jerry Brown, who sponsored Prop. 57, along with other officials said Prop. 57 will put the decision on whether to try juveniles in adult courts in the hands of judges — not prosecutors.

“This is public safety, it’s compliant with the Supreme Court, and the opponents have no alternatives,” said Gov. Jerry Brown in a meeting with The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board. “We can’t get out from under the court order unless we have a durable remedy (to reduce the state prison population). And we have evidence-based rehabilitation programs that work.”

Here, Ventura County Defense Attorney Robyn Bramson writes about why she supports Prop. 57, which will be on the ballot in November.

By Attorney Robyn Bramson

Over the Summer I met this extraordinary 16-year-old girl named Brayleen De La Cruz.  Brayleen is from Oxnard, and even though it’s not very far away from her, she has never been to Disneyland.

Brayleen De La Cruz

Brayleen is a talented softball player, who likes cooking, and reading fashion magazines, and she has a smile that could light up a room.  I am Brayleen’s lawyer and I met her in the Ventura County juvenile hall, where she is currently locked up under unjust and dire circumstances.

Right now, Brayleen is facing imprisonment for the rest of her life for crimes that she is innocent of, because under current California law prosecutors can unilaterally file a juvenile’s case directly in adult court, and that decision is not reviewable by a judge.

This problem, which impacts Brayleen and countless other kids, many of whom are as young as 14, can be fixed if California voters vote yes on Proposition 57 in November.

  Under current California law, prosecutors have absolute and unbridled power to file a juvenile’s case directly in adult court, so long as they are alleged to have committed a statutorily enumerated offense, and they are at least 14-years-old.

The prosecutor only needs to draft a charging document called a complaint, which sets forth the allegations against the juvenile, and file it directly in adult court.

That’s it.  Under the current law nothing more is required.

img_2619Right now the law does not require that prosecutors take into consideration any specific factors or criteria before filing a juvenile’s case directly in adult court.  In addition, the law does not mandate that prosecutors consider any personal or background information about the juvenile.

Moreover, under current California law prosecutors do not have to explain or justify their decision when they file a juvenile’s case directly in adult court, and once they do, their decision is final and cannot be reviewed or reversed by a judge.

It is because of these defects in the law that Brayleen finds herself in the nightmare that she is currently living.  Voting yes on Proposition 57 would change the law so that no child would again be in the helpless position that Brayleen is.

Proposition 57 would bring about much needed change in the law governing whether a juvenile’s case is tried in adult or juvenile court.  Proposition 57 would restore power to judges, and eliminate the widespread and longstanding problem of prosecutors filing juveniles’ cases directly in adult court when they really ought to be tried in juvenile court.

The significance of a juvenile being tried as an adult cannot be overemphasized, since adult court treatment subjects juveniles to the same sentencing laws that apply to adult offenders, which in many cases, like Brayleen’s, means incarceration for life.

Brayleen De La Cruz

Proposition 57 would, among other things, “[r]equire a judge, not a prosecutor, to decide whether juveniles should be tried in adult court.”

This change in the law would ensure that only those juveniles who are criminally sophisticated, have previous delinquent histories, and who cannot be rehabilitated by the juvenile court system would have their cases transferred to and tried in adult court.

Proposition 57 is a common sense voter initiative aimed at furthering its stated purpose and intent to “[s]top the revolving door of crime by emphasizing rehabilitation, especially for juveniles.”

Proposition 57 does give prosecutors the power and discretion to initiate the transfer of a case from juvenile court to adult court.  If a prosecutor believes that a particular juvenile should be tried as an adult, Proposition 57 allows the prosecutor to make a motion to transfer the case to adult court.

When a prosecutor does this, under Proposition 57 the judge is required to order the probation department to investigate, prepare and “submit a report on the behavioral patterns and social history of the minor.”

This component of Proposition 57 is critical, because it allows for a thorough and comprehensive evaluation of each juvenile, so that the judge can make an informed and individualized decision about whether that juvenile should be tried as an adult.  Under Proposition 57 if a judge, after a hearing on the issue, determines that a juvenile’s case should be transferred to adult court, the judge must “recite the basis for [the] decision in an order…”.

prop-57-logoProposition 57 establishes a uniform approach to dealing with the question of whether a juvenile should be tried as an adult.  It requires that every judge consider the same criteria in deciding if the case before them should proceed in juvenile or adult court.

This is another key component of Proposition 57, since under current California law there are no such criteria that prosecutors are required to consider before filing a juvenile’s case directly in adult court. 

As a result of this, prosecutors essentially have free rein to charge juveniles as adults without a serious or adequate consideration of whether those juveniles should be tried as adults.

Current California law does not require prosecutors to consider if a juvenile is suffering from mental illness, is developmentally disabled, is a special education student, or has a history of being abused or neglected prior to filing their case directly in adult court.

In contrast, Proposition 57 provides for a judge’s consideration of “the minor’s age, maturity, intellectual capacity, and physical, mental, and emotional health at the time of the alleged offense, the minor’s impetuosity or failure to appreciate risks and consequences of criminal behavior, the effect of familial, adult, or peer pressure on the minor’s actions, and the effect of the minor’s family and community environment and childhood trauma…”.

courthouse photo
Ventura County Courthouse

For Brayleen, in my view, consideration of these factors as well as others outlined in the proposed law, clearly shows that Brayleen should not be tried as an adult.  This exemplifies that the current law, which allows prosecutors to file a juvenile’s case directly in adult court, and denies judges the power to review or override that decision, is broken and desparately needs to be fixed.

And even though Brayleen is locked up, wrongly accused, and in a dire situation that no one should be in, I believe that this extraordinary girl has the power to bring about urgently needed and long overdue change to California law, so that judges, not prosecutors, will be the ones making the important decision of whether a juvenile is charged in adult court.

I know that the upcoming election has many people feeling uninspired.  To those people I say be inspired by Brayleen.

I know that there are many people who are thinking about not voting on November 8th.  I urge those people to vote because of Brayleen, if only to vote yes on Proposition 57, so that juveniles are no longer unjustly tried as adults in California.

Publisher’s note:  Brayleen De La Cruz is charged with murder and attempted murder with gang enhancements.

Editor’s Note:  Comments on this opinion column or other articles are welcomed. However, personal attacks, profanity, lewd or crass remarks will not be published. 

By Raul

Raul Hernandez is a former journalist. He has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years at the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso Times, Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California. He was a court reporter for more than 20 years.

17 thoughts on “Other Voices: A Case for Prop. 57 —The People vs. Brayleen De La Cruz”
  1. She knew what she was doing and she needs to pay for what she did.yes she was driving the the car and got caught!!

  2. sorry but if you want to run along with gang members, acting like an adult, you should face the consequences of your actions like an adult. At her age she should of known wrong from right. Being the get away driver for some idiots that killed somebody isn’t what a young teenager should of been doing. A mother had to bury her son, and now her family has to visit her in jail.

  3. She’s affiliated with the colonia Chiquez gang. How dare you make her look innocent when she was involved in a killing. That child make adult descions, got behind the wheel and drove like a maniac and could have injured others! Honestly she doesn’t want to go to Actual imprisonment because she has allllllllllll her hoodrat homegirls in juvenile hall. It doesn’t make them better there, the girls there in juvenile hall just do drugs and are not getting any real change in their lives. They are pathetic just like her lawyer trying to make Brayden seem innocent. That girl does NOT even play softball anymore, that stopped a long time ago when the hood got the best of her.

    1. Thank you for telling the TRUTH unknown. There is always two sides to the story and these kids are never as innocent as they want to make it out to be kids can be very very very dangerous

  4. I agree with what the law is. Leave it to the courts/attorneys to decide on whether it’s a juvenile or adult case. No excuses for her actions or the ones she’s was with

  5. She was the biggest bully in oxnard always mean , always knew how to bring people down , i was her friend but she always turned her back on me even stole from tried to beat me up she was like that with EVERYONE I don’t feel bad and especially for her family they all knew how she is she is not innocent karma FINALLY caught up to her

    1. Her family new exactly what she was getting her self in just like her family members she became a gang member as well. She’s following the same steps as them and got caught. She would always brag about how her family would kill and more bad stuff like tbat. She deserves what she got her self into she didn’t care for that guys life so why should we care for her life in prison now. God forgive me for wishing bad upon someone but she deserves no mercy she should deal with the consequences of her actions and be a grown up woman about it since that’s how she decided to act when she committed the crime!!!

      1. You really need to get your facts right girl, no one in my family has done what you say braylene said to you. You are wrong. No one knows what happened so people need to keep their comments to themselves

  6. Adult crimes = adult prosecution. Her and her gang members murdered someone in broad daylight. That was someone else’s son. Someone’s family member. I don’t feel sorry for her. Let the jury who will find out all the facts decide. This lawyer is dispicable.

  7. Keep that hoodrat locked up, she was one of my bestfriends in Oxnard and she is not what this article makes her to be, maybe only because they’re using pictures of her from 3+ years ago, this girl is out bullying plenty of people, going around fighting half Oxnard and even smoking meth! Going out having sex and messing around with numerous boys, Kidding me!? at 16, 16 years old. She’d always be bragging about how proud she was to be part of Colonia this and that , that she “puts in work for her hood” and other stupid wastes’ of breath, she knew what she did and needs to face the consequences, even if she gets lucky because of this Prop 57 she’ll be locked up until minimal juvenile murder case charges until she’s 25, have a good time rotting in the correctional facilities this is karma for all you’ve done ;-)

    1. Daisy, why didn’t you ever say anything? If she bullied you why? Didn’t you say anything to your parents why? You all are just now opening your mouths and saying all these things about her, when you should have put a stop to the so called bullying you said she did. Just stop talking and posting all these rude comments.

  8. Wow no words for this cuz of all the good or bad being said. May God be with all families in this

  9. Gloria, I don’t know if you are a family member to this person or what. Everytime someone post a negative comment you are quick to defend her. Why were you not there while this girl was growing up and steer her in the right direction. I hate that the parent or whom ever blasts pics when they were young playing softball or even ballerinas. Why don’t they post her in her “gang clothing” making gang signs. Drinking, smoking weed or meth. This is crazy she deserves to pay for what she DID. Because she knew what the hell she was doing. NO ON 57….keep them behind bars until they rot.

  10. Her mom is a gang member from ssxch her so called dad a gang member from sxt…Her mom in and out of jail low life no good drug addicts..Her grandma raised all the girls .. Brayleen was and will always be a bully she was smoking meath just like her mom..She said she was from ssxch then sxt now coxch hood Hooper hood rat sleeping around since she was 12 and I’m from her family no adult supervision at all ever..The grandma even drives around takeing all the girls to fight . There family is no good gang bangers /drug addicts/that showed her how to be the was she is ..She’s no little girl she was sleeping with one of the guys and her family knew there were dating he used to go over to her house..He older she’s under age..She new the gang life and would walk all around Oxnard throwing up coxch ..She went to Ventura knowing who and what they were going to do word is that’s not the only murder she is involved in..And if u see now that they r all busted all the back to back killing stopped..No good low life girl hope she gets all the time in the world her sister mom who’s out now but I’m sure will be rite back in and grandma still to this day this new year in there black SUV rolling around trying to punk people one day they will hit up the wrong person and I fill sorry for them. All bad whole family

  11. I slept with her ..And only new her for 2days ..I used to go over her house her grandmother and grandfather let us smoke in the house..The grandma is OK with all the ss and coxch boys and girls going in and out of her house.. Brayleens mom is from south side Oxnard and she use to clam 2 different hoods..She’s I’m sure going to rat..Her last boyfriend lil pilot from CO.. is also busted and a rat the cops should check the foo he’s talking about the killing hes a bitch.. and the new guy she was with is now in jail for murder..Dum little girl.. and there both from the same hood ..And don’t Blame the drugs blame the mom grandma family..They all need to go down..

  12. You do the crime, you do the time! She knew right from wrong. You don’t get in somebody’s car and drive somebody to murder somebody’s kid. She’s just as guilty!!!

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