Proposition 57 could lead to release of man convicted as a teen of murdering San Jose high school student

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Because of Proposition 57, people who committed murders in California that were under the age of 18 may be released. A judge could soon decide the fate of a man convicted of killing his classmate eight years ago when he was a teen. (KGO-TV)

Voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 57 in 2016. A "yes" vote supported increasing parole and good behavior opportunities for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and allowing judges, not prosecutors, to decide whether to try certain juveniles as adults in court. That latter provision could lead to the release of a convicted murderer in San Jose.

Randy Thompson was just 15 years old at the time when he and 16-year-old Jae Williams stabbed 15-year-old Michael Russell to death at his San Jose home in 2009.

From left to right: Jae Williams and Randy Thompson.

At the time of the murder, Thompson said he worshiped the devil and took a life just because he wanted to. It was called a "thrill kill."

Thompson and Williams were both tried as adults in separate trials and sentenced to 26 years to life in prison.

But with the passage of Proposition 57 in 2016, these cases could be put back into juvenile court.

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The measure gives judges the authority, not prosecutors, to decide if juveniles would be tried in adult court.

Since Thompson has not exhausted his appeals, he is allowed a "transfer hearing" in juvenile court.

If a judge decides to transfer the case to juvenile court, the now 24-year-old Thompson could be released.

Russell's family has endured three trials over nine years and promises to continue going to all of Thompson's hearings.

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"The thought of him getting out is really scary. Because for society, I wouldn't want him living next door to me. I mean he's not a safe person. He can't exist in society. He's an animal," said Cathy Russell, the aunt of Michael Russell.

Thursday was just a detention hearing, a formality on the way to an eventual transfer hearing.

Russell's family believes the other defendant, Jae Williams, will also apply for a transfer hearing.

Thompson is scheduled to be back in court on June 5.

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