Katila Nash, who was convicted of taking part in the murder of an 81-year-old east Bakersfield woman when she was 15 years old, is set to be released from prison any day now, said her father, Floyd Nash.
She was convicted of the 2010 murder of Dorothy Session along with two other teenagers and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Under her sentencing, Katila Nash wasn't eligible for parole until 2030. However, recent changes to youth prosecution laws have altered her course drastically.
Katila Nash's case first became eligible for review under Proposition 57, approved by voters in 2016, which now requires prosecutors to ask a juvenile court judge to decide whether juvenile defendants age 14 and older can be tried as adults. Prosecutors previously had the sole right to make that decision, given to them under Proposition 21, which passed in March 2000.
Then earlier this year, the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1391, which bars children ages 14 and 15 from being tried as an adult for certain serious offenses, including murder.
As a result, Nash's case would have to be considered by a juvenile court. However, since she is now 25, she has aged out of the juvenile court's jurisdiction.
"There’s no way for her to be tried as an adult … and because she’s 25 already, the juvenile court basically said we don’t have the authority to do anything," said Joseph Kinzel, a deputy district attorney and spokesman for the Kern County District Attorney's Office.
Both the Kern County Superior Court's juvenile and adult divisions have ordered Nash, currently held at the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, to be released, Kinzel said.
Katila Nash and her sister, Angelique, who was 17 at the time and also sentenced to 25 years to life, were runaways at the time of Session's death. The third teenager involved, David Deshawn Moses, also 17 at the time, was sentenced to life without parole. During trial prosecutors stated that Moses beat Session to death after he and Katila Nash talked their way into her home in order to rob her, while Angelique Nash stood watch outside.
While neither Angelique nor Katila Nash physically harmed Session, they were charged with murder under a legal rule that allows others to be charged with murder when someone dies during the commission of a serious crime. In this case, it was alleged the teenagers intended to burglarize Session. The felony murder rule has also been tweaked by legislation since the teens' sentencing.
Floyd Nash said his daughter is happy about her impending release.
"I believe the charges from the beginning were wrong for all of them," Floyd Nash said, adding that he felt racism played a role in the prosecutions. "But the only way they get all three of them was to lie and say it was what it was."
Judy Stone, a neighbor of Session's, called Katila Nash's release "a rotten deal."
"She'd have given them everything she had if they just asked her for it," Stone said, adding that Session was a sweet, Christian lady who loved to help others.
Stone said she recently spoke with Session's daughter, Elaine Covert, who mentioned how upset she was at hearing Katila Nash may soon be released.
SB 1391, the new law that led to Katila Nash's impending release, has been controversial and is scheduled to be taken up by the California Supreme Court. Four state appellate courts have upheld the law, and Attorney General Xavier Becerra supports their decision, but one has disagreed with respect to murder, according to a recent San Francisco Chronicle story. The law has also been opposed by prosecutors, including the Kern County District Attorney's office.
"A lot of people may not know, it doesn't matter what someone does ... They could go on a murder spree" and not be charged as an adult, Kinzel said of the law.