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Oakland advocates applaud DA’s decision to charge youth in juvenile court

The Alameda County DA Accountability Table holds press conference at the Alameda County Court House in Oakland
Alastair Boone
The Alameda County DA Accountability Table holds press conference at the Rene C. Davidson Court House in Oakland

The Alameda County DA Accountability Table held a press conference Tuesday in support of Pamela Price on the steps of the Rene C. Davidison Court House in Oakland.

"Good morning, first and foremost, I’d like to send prayers, energy, and healing to the family that was impacted.”

That’s George Galvis, the Co-Founder and Executive Director for Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ). He’s a former juvenile lifer, who was charged in juvenile court at the age of 16.

“I know that all young people have the ability to change their lives, and that’s why I stand here today in solidarity with the decision to treat children as children.” 

Galvis is one of the advocates that gathered on the steps of the courthouse in support of a policy in the office of District Attorney Pamela Price: to prosecute youth in juvenile court, rather than trying them as adults.

This policy was recently put to the test, in a case involving a 17-year-old who allegedly murdered teenage brothers, Angel and Jazy Sotelo Garcia. Angel and Jazy were 15 and 17-years old, respectively, when they were murdered at a birthday party in Oakland, in 2022. DA Price recently decided to prosecute the suspect in juvenile court, rather than charging him as an adult.

In 2016, California voters passed Proposition 57, which removed the authority of prosecutors to directly file charges against minors in adult court. Now, the decision of whether or not to charge specific youth as adults falls to the District Attorney, who must file a special motion if they seek to send a teenager to adult court. After this motion is filed, a judge decides whether or not to transfer the minor.

During her campaign for the District Attorney’s seat, Price promised that she would use her discretion not try youth as adults. The Alameda County DA Accountability Table says this is essential for maintaining community safety and equitable justice in Alameda County.

John Vasquez is the Policy and Legal Services Manager for Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice. He said he was 16 when he was processed through adult court.

“During my 25 years of incarceration, I met many people, who could have done so much good for society, had they remained in juvenile court. Instead, they were warehoused in adult prisons for decades. Keeping kids in the juvenile system will give young people the opportunity that I ,and countless others, never had.” 

Advocates at the press conference also pointed out that juvenile justice is an equity issue. They said that between 2006 and 2018, 97 percent of the youth who were prosecuted as adults in Alameda County were Black and Brown, and that in 2014, that number was 100 percent.

However, some are outraged at DA Price’s decision to keep the alleged murderer in this case in juvenile court. The family members of the brothers who were murdered are urging the public to contact Price, and ask her to reverse her decision.

Alastair Boone is the Director of Street Spirit newspaper, and a member of KALW's 2024 Audio Academy.