Clemeth Castille

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.

picture of Clemeth with loved one

Clemeth on a visit with his loved one

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Eric Clark

Photo of Eric Clark

Eric Clark

Under “Changed Lives” we have stories about people whose life sentence was commuted. Eric’s is one of them:

Hello, my name is Eric Clark and there has not been a day from July 7, 1992 to July 7, 2017 that I haven’t faced a Death Sentence or Life Without the Possibility of Parole, or have had to serve an LWOP sentence. Being an LWOP was not a sentence to serve, but became my description and a form of identification.

September 15, 2017, I was resentenced to 25 years to life, and after already surpassing my 25-year base term, I was already overdue for my initial Board of Parole hearing date. I even was 20 years old and became immediately eligible for parole as a Youthful Offender under SB 261.

So, in the last 4 plus months my life has been a whirlwind. Being a Lifer is much different than being an LWOP. There is a sense of now as a lifer, whereas an LWOP there was always time. That’s all LWOP’s have had for decades, is time. But now things are moving in the direction for those serving LWOP sentences, towards an opportunity for consideration to be treated like a lifer. What does that look like? What does that mean?

The conversations I’ve had with those LWOP’s on Level II tells me they don’t see it. So, my advice with those who truly seek consideration and a chance for freedom, Remember Your Victims. Do not approach this as if it’s all about you. Do not come across as if you are owed something or entitled. And convey that you realize that no hardship from an excessively harsh sentence can be worse than being a murder victim or their family.
Good luck to all those serving LWOP sentences. Do not become what you have been sentenced to serve.

Sincerely,
Eric Clark J-36404
CSP Solano C13-7-3
P.O. Box 4000
Vacaville, California 95696

January 25, 2018

This is a case about Eric’s brother, but Eric was also in the court case. They wanted to have this link posted here:

https://www.leagle.com/decision/incaco20160627061 (People v. Clark (2016) 63 cal. 4th 522)