Monday, March 24, 2014

#InTheNews: San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office assists victims’ families

By Sandra Emerson, Redlands Daily Facts
Posted: |

REDLANDS >> District Attorney Mike Ramos started the Lifer Parole Unit in 2003, after being elected to the post in 2002.

Ramos had graduated from Redlands High School the year before the rape and murder of 15-year-old Paula Hernandez while walking home from Redlands High School on March 22, 1977.

More than 25 years later, he decided to establish the unit in Paula’s honor, almost naming it for her, with the purpose of assisting victims and families of victims whose offenders are sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.

“Her spirit remains as an inspiration to help families of murder victims,” Ramos said.

Prosecutors assigned to the Lifer Parole Unit attend so-called suitability hearings for parole held for inmates sentenced to life for crimes committed in San Bernardino County.

The Victims’ Bill of Rights Law of 2008, or Marsy’s Law, was approved by California voters in November 2008 to ensure victims and families of victims are informed of all parole procedures and the parole process.

Victims have the right to provide information to be considered by the parole board and to be notified of the parole or release of an offender.

Prior to Marsy’s Law, the maximum parole denial was five years. Now, inmates can be denied for seven, 10 and 15 years.

Over the years, Paula’s family has been notified of the scheduled parole hearings for John Zenc, now 57, who was convicted of the girl’s murder. A prosecutor has also attended the hearings.

“They’re there to answer our questions, to help us if we need anything. They’re there for us,” said Ruth Lopez, Paula’s sister.

In the 1990s, Ramos met with Paula’s family and attended a parole hearing.

At the time, Ramos said, Zenc was not remorseful and showed no effort toward rehabilitation.

“I was very concerned this individual would not only get out, but I wanted to make sure he was punished — he took the life of Paula at a very young age, and also that he doesn’t harm any other citizens upon being release from prison,” Ramos said.

With a parole hearing for Zenc approaching, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Dawson is preparing her case on why he should remain behind bars.

Dawson has been assigned to Paula’s case and attends Zenc’s hearings on behalf of the District Attorney’s Office.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

To read more articles in the series, click on the links below:

Redlands family fights for justice for Paula Hernandez, 37 years after murder

Paula Hernandez murder impacted community of Redlands

The day Paula was murdered on her way home

Convicted murderer John Zenc to be considered for parole May 22

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