SANTA ANA, Calif. – Samuel Woodward, who’s charged with the killing of his former highschool classmate, pleaded not responsible Friday in reference to the deadly stabbing of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, however questions stay over whether or not the defendant ought to be charged with a hate crime.
Woodward, 20, entered his plea throughout an arraignment listening to in Orange County Superior Courtroom. Choose Sheila Hanson set his bail at $5 million, greater than the standard $1 million in such instances, citing the severity of the crime and that Woodward modified his look by dyeing his hair from blonde to black whereas police had been nonetheless investigating the case.
Within the occasion Woodward is ready to make bail, Hanson dominated that he can be required to stay in California, flip over his U.S. passport, comply with a every day 10:30 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew and conform to be monitored by GPS.
Woodward, a former classmate of Bernstein’s at Orange County College of the Arts in Santa Ana, was arrested Jan. 12 on suspicion of homicide after DNA proof on the crime scene in Borrego Park in Lake Forest and inside his automobile tied him to the slaying, police mentioned.
Authorities haven’t revealed a motive for the killing. However a supply, who spoke to the Los Angeles Instances on situation of anonymity as a result of she or he was not approved to debate the case publicly, mentioned Woodward claimed that Bernstein had kissed him.
Bernstein, who was homosexual and was house visiting his dad and mom on winter break from the College of Pennsylvania, was discovered with greater than 20 stab wounds.
If convicted of the homicide cost, Woodward may face a most sentence of 26 years to life in state jail. He has additionally been charged with one felony rely of homicide with a sentencing enhancement of utilizing a knife.
However he has not been charged with a hate crime.
Spurred by the Bernstein case, GOP state Sen. Janet Nguyen of Backyard Grove on Friday introduced Senate Invoice 971, which seeks to increase the scope of sentencing enhancements for homicide convictions to incorporate gender and sexual orientation.
At the moment, there are not any sentencing enhancements for individuals convicted of murdering somebody due to the sufferer’s sexual orientation or gender.
“Which means that beneath present legislation, committing against the law in opposition to somebody who’s homosexual could possibly be referred to as a hate crime, which carries its personal decrease penalties, however murdering somebody particularly as a result of they’re homosexual doesn’t represent a particular circumstance, thus eliminating a extra simply punishment,” Nguyen mentioned.
Sometimes, a sentencing enhancement of that nature on a homicide cost carries a minimal sentence of life in jail with out chance of parole, Orange County District Lawyer Tony Rackauckas mentioned.
“Particulars of this case have come to gentle which have additional underscored the senselessness of this act, because it has not been dominated out that Blaze’s sexual orientation may have been the explanation for his homicide,” Nguyen mentioned. “It is a unhappy and heartbreaking prospect for all.”
Rackauckas declined to remark Friday about particular proof within the investigation that would level to a particular circumstance cost just like the one outlined within the proposed laws. He additionally declined to debate a doable motive within the killing, including that the case continues to be being investigated.
Throughout a information convention Friday, Bernstein’s mom mentioned she welcomed Nguyen’s proposed invoice.
“In fact, we take consolation that ought to this invoice move, we can be one step nearer to offering a safer California for LGBTQ members to stay and thrive,” Jeanne Pepper Bernstein mentioned.
She mentioned she broke down after listening to the information of the proposed laws.
“I’m crying as a result of there’s nothing that may deliver my son house to me,” she mentioned. “There’s nothing that may deliver again any of the harmless stunning souls which have been misplaced to us due to ignorance and hate.”