My name is Clemeth Castille, P64803, Case #132344C – and in 1996, at the age of 17, I was involved in a murder-robbery where sadly, a family man lost his life. I didn’t know or understand the gravity of my actions at that time. I also didn’t know or understand how so many additional people (the victim’s family) would be hurt by those actions. Following trial, I was sentenced to Life Without the Possibility of Parole, plus ten years for a gun enhancement under the felony-murder rule.
I was so young and dumb, not only about state law, but also the sheer preciousness of life. I surely didn’t even know what Life Without the Possibility of Parole truly meant – all I was thinking about from the time of my arrest through pre-trial/trial proceedings was, “I didn’t kill anyone; I wasn’t even personally present when the loss of life occurred. Plus, even my trial judge said: “I will be out on appeal!” so after the appeals were all exhausted and I found myself stuck doing time on many of the level four yards and talking to various people regarding legal issue, I quickly formed an understanding of my cause and how deep my troubles really were.
So, I had a choice to make; I could get with the prison gang activities and go downhill because (with my mindset at the time) my life was over anyway or, I could rise up and be the man I was raised to be and deal with the circumstances of my situation as they come. Fortunately, I was blessed to meet and be around a lot of good people during the time I’ve been locked up. They molded and guided me into the man I am today, and for that I am eternally grateful. Still, at a particular point and time, around 2006, I lost hope – my mom was sick with pneumonia and I couldn’t do anything about it. I was helpless. I felt helpless. She ended up getting better, but I was still feeling like, ‘what’s the point? I’m never getting out of here.’ Worse, at some point I’m going to lose her without being able to be there for her like she’s always been there for me. In the midst of all that negative self-talk and thinking, a letter arrived from the Human Rights Watch; it was from a lady named Elizabeth Calvin telling me about a bill they were trying to put together called SB-9. The bill would give me and others (under the age of 18 at the time of the offense) a chance to go home. Suddenly, once again, I had hope!
After several more years and changes to the bill’s language, it passed. Elizabeth Calvin and the Human Rights Watch turned my case over to U.S.C. Post-Conviction Justice Project. There, Heidi Rummel and her law students went to work on my case. The first time around, however, I was denied relief under the new bill. But, I didn’t lose hope or faith; I believed in them (U.S.C. Law) the same way they believed in me. Then, on Tuesday, April 25, 2017, it happened – I was resentenced to twenty-five (25) to life with a four (4) year gun enhancement under §1170(d)2(f). It still feels unreal. My next step now is getting ready for my Board of Parole hearing.
During the time I’ve been incarcerated, I’ve applied myself by taking groups, reading and helping others – not because I was going to the board, not at that point and time anyway; I was still an LWOP and I applied myself for me and to show my family I was still the man they believed in. That I can always do, and be, better! I was also blessed to have the love of my life back in my life. I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot of insight from her. We were 16-years-old, kids in love before my choices changed my life, and in turn, hers. She showed me that my life meant something back then – well, maybe not to me, but to her and my family, it did. It’s crazy because at the age of 17, I promised her we would get married, but I went to jail and 20 years later, I made that promise come true and made her my wife. She loves the man I’ve become. The moral of my story is: “Don’t you ever give up having hope and faith!”
Thank you for letting me share my story.