San Jose ‘Thrill Kill’ Victim’s Family Fears New Bill Will Free One of the Killers

Almost a decade ago, a San Jose teen was killed by two friends, ages 15 and 16, in what was known as a "thrill kill," and now the victim's family fears one of the killers may be freed.

Michael Russell, 15, was stabbed to death in his backyard by Randy Thompson and Jae Williams in 2009. They were tried as adults and convicted of Russell's murder.

On Thursday, a bill that prevents juveniles 15 or younger from being tried as adults is heading to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. The Russell family is heartbroken and angry that this bill may soon become law.

For almost 10 years, Cathy Russell has been the voice for her nephew Michael, who was killed in November 2009.

"We thought it was over," Cathy said. "It’s never been over…"

Thompson and Williams each are serving 26 years to life for the slaying. Thompson, who was 15 at the time, was convicted of premeditated murder.

Cathy is speaking out again because Thompson could be freed.

"He knew what he was doing; he thought it out, he planned it," she said. "And now you want to say, 'I’m going to pass this bill, and he's going to get out.' Really?"

SB1391 is heading to Brown’s desk two years after California voters passed Proposition 57, which ended the practice of allowing prosecutors to directly file charges on teens in adult court.

Right now, a judge makes that decision.

If the governor signs SB1391 into law, no juvenile 15 or younger can be tried as an adult.

"While I recognize some 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds are often not as mature or think the same way as adults, there are some 14- and 15-year-olds that are engaging in incredibility dangerous behavior," said Carolyn Powell, deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County.

The CEO of a national group called Campaign for Youth Justice is in favor of the bill.

"What we want is for these children to have access to services and programs to make sure they don’t commit these crimes again," Marcy Mistrett said. "We do know the juvenile justice system is more equipped to do that."

Cathy Russell countered: "Let’s go back to respect and human dignity. We are reversing in our society. We’re going backward, saying it’s OK to commit these crimes."

Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign the bill.

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