Grant Commutation for Incarcerated Survivor Gabriela Solano!
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Gabriela Solano is an incarcerated survivor of domestic violence who has served 20 years in prison for her involvement in a crime committed by her abusive boyfriend and his acquaintances.
Enduring the longstanding effects of an 8-year relationship characterized by volatility, violence, and emotional abuse, Gabriela was placed in a dangerous and impossible situation for which she remains unduly penalized. Even though she took no actions and held no intent to end anyone’s life, Gabriela has suffered from the connected experiences of domestic abuse and harshly punitive measures like the felony murder rule which allowed her to be sentenced to Life Without Parole with an additional 25 years to Life. Governor Brown’s commutation is a crucial step to giving Gabriela the second chance she deserves. Join us in asking Governor Jerry Brown to commute Gabriela’s sentence from Life Without Parole plus 25-to-life to a parole-eligible sentence.
A few days after her 26th birthday and after an attempt to leave her ex-boyfriend and start anew, Gabriela found herself in a hopeless and desperate situation wherein she was coerced to drive him to an area where he and his acquaintances committed a car theft. Begging to leave the scene and avoid further trauma, Gabriela’s boyfriend threatened and forced her to drive them to another destination, fearing that, if left alone, Gabriela may report the crime. While waiting at a traffic light, a passenger in Gabriela’s car instigated an altercation with pedestrians that—to Gabriela’s stunned horror—ended in a death. Immediately, her ex-boyfriend demanded that she conceal the incident, threatening harm and criminal punishment if she reported the episode to authorities. As a measure of survival, Gabriela agreed. Gabriela, her ex-boyfriend, and their acquaintances were ultimately charged.
At the time of her arraignment, Gabriela—who did not recognize the implications of sentence enhancements or California’s felony murder rule—chose not to accept a plea bargain because she had taken no actions to end anyone’s life. Throughout her trial, she struggled with compromised legal counsel, and her appeals to change counsel were denied by a judge who also deprived her jury of the benefit of a domestic violence expert who could have offered insight on the crucial nuances and far-reaching impact of Gabriela’s experience of abuse. For example, when Gabriela pleaded with her ex-boyfriend to attest to her lack of direct involvement in the crime, he used the court as a way to extend his pattern of injury and control, telling her that she deserved a sentence of Life Without Parole as punishment for attempting to leave their relationship. Because of the wide reach of accomplice liability under the felony murder rule—which requires no proof of intent or direct involvement in first-degree murder—Gabriela was sentenced to Life Without Parole with an additional 25 years to Life.
Despite this devastating course of events, Gabriela has spent the last 20 years seeking positive change for herself and for others. Gabriela has worked hard to heal from the longstanding effects of her own trauma. She has taken over 1,000 hours of rehabilitative classes, and volunteered to support fellow incarcerated survivors through the Walk of Love project. She has utilized her training in office services to serve as a clerk for over 12 years, and is currently on track to receive her Associate’s Degree. Gabriela has a passion for language, and hopes for a career in civic translation and English as a Second Language instruction. She is a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, and we believe her greatest potential is ahead of her.
Join us in asking Governor Brown to commute Gabriela’s sentence from Life Without Parole to a parole eligible sentence. Survivors of gender violence should receive support and affirmation rather than harsh punishments for acts committed by their abusers.
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