Felony Murder - If you're charged you have already lost
In 2004, at the age of only 15, was put in a position of being a lookout for two older teenagers who planned to break into a home in Riverside CA. But that home invasion turned into murder. Khalifa said he had no idea his friends were going to kill the 77-year-old homeowner, Hubert Love, and Shawn was not in the house nor armed when the murder took place. He was convicted of felony murder.
At the time, when Shawn's mother began contacting attorneys for her son they would ask what he was charged with. When she responded "felony murder" she was immediately told ", you've lost, you're going to visit your son for the rest of his life in prison,"
That is exactly what is wrong with the felony murder laws. You can not defend yourself against it. The sentencing for the charge has no judicial scrutiny, it carriers a mandatory minimum sentence. Shawn was held responsible for the actions of the others even though he, himself did not act in the murder at all. Murder was not the intention.
UPDATE 2020: Shawn was finally released after the CA District attorneys were unsuccessful in fighting the felony murder reform law. Shawn has moved on to living his life and is pursuing his college degree and aspires to teach. He maintains a website, Facebook and Youtube channel in his outreach mission and wants to be an inspiration to youth to make better decisions in the friends that they choose.
Sentencing guidelines for felony murder are being addressed across the country,
In 2019 CA passed new legislation that would that would allow for people like Shawn that had been sentenced under the previous guidelines to apply for a lessor sentence. Remember that Shawn was not the shooter and was not an accomplice to a planned homicide but would likely spend the rest of his life in prison. The passage of the new legislation was great news for Shawn. It did not take long before the district attorneys around the state do what all states DA's or DA associations do and they challenged the new law. Of course they challenge. This law a prosecutors dream charge. Very slim chance that the prosecutor will loose the case, the defendant is at the mercy of the prosecutor and much of the time will find no mercy there. Prosecutors hang on to this law with every ounce of energy that they have. They do not want to loose their death grip on these slam dunk convictions. If you find yourself facing something that you can not win against you have no choice but to either except whatever plea deal is offered or fight. Fighting means that you loose and will be sentenced to the harshest possibly penalty available. Shawn's case was no different.
Each time these new bills or changes to the law or sentencing is challenged it becomes an emotional battle for the convicted and their families and loved ones. When they had all but given up hope, a new law is passed and hope is shining upon them. The conversations change, their plans for the future change, hope becomes something real. And then along comes the black cloud of toxicity to blot out the sun once more. Shawn and his family now wait and then wait some more while decisions that will have a forever impact upon their lives are being made.
Shawn has accepted his fate long ago. He was only 15 year old. He had to adapt or die. He adapted. He created a life inside the walls in an effort to make up for the life that was lost outside. Shawn told KPBS "The only thing I can plan for is to be in prison for the rest of my life," Khalifa said. "And that's the only thing that seems to make life bearable and comfortable is to be acclimated to this environment."
Since having been incarcerated Shawn has become a leader, a mentor for at risk youth. He has written books and become a playwright and he also has a podcast. His Facebook profile advertises his YouTube channel and a web site. The first page of his web site, PenSide Out, says this "As Founder & President of PenSide Out I am committed to saving your life. Prison is not life. Once behind these wall's nobody can save you and the life you once dreamed of is now over. I am here to let out the positive voices that these prison wall's silence. If you are a gang member, doing drugs, stealing, or are a concerned family member of a wayward youth; please feel free to contact one of our listed mentors. They have what you need to hear: because they have been there themselves." Shawn also has plans to attend college when he is released and has been working with San Diego State University’s Project Rebound,
Shawn has a mother who has fought for him from day one. in 2018 his mother, Colleen, produced and directed a documentary titled after her son.
Felony Murder is a draconian archaic law that has no place in a modern society, a society that cares about true justice. We hope that Shawn see's that justice soon, that he is released so he can continue on his journey to help at risk teens avoid being scooped up by the system.