Offord Rollins IV, a former high school All-American in track and field from Wasco, near Bakersfield, was sentenced to 29 years to life in the California Youth Authority on Friday for the murder of his former girlfriend.
Rollins, 19, who has maintained his innocence, will be eligible for parole in three years.
By ordering Rollins to the CYA, Kern County Superior Court Judge Len McGillivray opened the door for a short-service term. Prisoners are released from the CYA when they reach 25.
If Rollins has behavior problems at the CYA, however, officials could petition that he serve the rest of his sentence at an adult prison. "Offord's chances of getting off early are excellent," said Timothy Lemucchi, Rollins' attorney. "He has absolutely no prior history of violence, and his conduct in custody has been exemplary so far. I would be surprised if he goes beyond the CYA."
Lisa Green, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Rollins, had asked that Rollins serve his entire sentence. She declined comment on Friday's decision.
Lemucchi, whose three motions for new trials were denied by McGillivray in the last four months, said he will continue to fight for Rollins. He filed a notice for an appeal Friday with the 5th Appellate Court in Fresno.
Rollins, who as a junior at Wasco High won the triple jump at the state track and field meet in Cerritos in June of 1991, is being held at Lerdo Detention Facility near Bakersfield. He is expected to be assigned to the CYA in Sacramento, where he underwent a personal evaluation over the summer.
Rollins seemed relieved by the sentence, shedding a few tears and holding Lemucchi's hands. Security was heavy in the courtroom, which was filled with the defendant's family and friends.
The sentencing ends one of the longest and most-publicized murder cases in Kern County history.
In August of 1991, days before he was to begin his senior year at Wasco High, Rollins was arrested for the murder of Maria Madera Rodriguez, 17, of Shafter. He was released for insufficient evidence but arrested again later that month.
He went on trial in March before a jury of 11 whites and one Latino. When he was found guilty in April, Lemucchi and other Rollins' supporters said the prosecutor had used a racially motivated strategy because Rollins is black.