OAKLAND, Calif. - The two men accused of killing toddler Jasper Wu in a shootout on a Bay Area freeway no longer face the possibility of life without parole or a death sentence after prosecutors reduced the charges against them.
Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price removed the special circumstances charge for defendants, Ivory Bivens, 24, and Trevor Green, 22, KTVU learned Wednesday.
Both men appeared in court on Thursday but their arraignments were pushed back until July 25. Neither have entered a plea.
They are awaiting trial on murder charges with special gang enhancements in the Nov. 2021 killing of 23-month-old Jasper on Interstate 880 in Oakland.
Price's predecessor, Nancy O'Malley, filed the initial charges in the case, which included the special circumstances to the murder charges. But Price amended the case by removing the condition of special circumstances. She kept the murder charges with a gang enhancement.
That means, if convicted, Bivens and Green will no longer face life in prison without parole or the death penalty, which is already on hold in California.
"I think that was the right call," said Green's attorney Laurie Mont. "Even without the special circumstances, the charges are extremely serious and carry decades of time."
The defendants still face stiff punishments, the district attorney's office said. If convicted, Bivens faces 265 years to life in prison. Green faces 175 years to life in prison.
"We will continue to hold these men accountable for these serious charges that will likely land them behind bars for the rest of their lives," said Price, who did not explain why she made the changes.
Carl Chan, who spoke on behalf of the Wu family Thursday, said dropping the special circumstances charges sets a bad precedent.
"By not sending a strong message, we are almost saying it's okay to commit crime because there's no serious consequences," he said. "It's about protecting the victims and the families, not helping criminals."
But Bivens' attorney Ernie Castillo said that despite the reduced charges, his client still faces life behind bars.
"My client continues to face an indeterminate life sentence under the filed information," Castillo said. "It is obvious to me that the District Attorney's office has given into the political pressure surrounding this case by pursuing the gun and gang enhancements."
Jasper Wu was riding in the backseat of a car with his family on I-880 in Oakland when he was shot and killed by a stray bullet in November 2021.
Prosecutors allege Bivens and Green were riding in a car along the highway and ambushed another vehicle with an AR-15-style rifle. The defendants are accused of following the car onto I-880 and opening fire and striking the driver. Johnny Jackson was a passenger.
Prosecutors said the suspects were trying to kill the occupants of the other car, which included Jackson and the driver, but they fatally shot Jasper.
Jackson fired back at Bivens and Green but claimed it was in self-defense. He pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm Thursday.
Previously, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Scott Patton ruled that Jackson was the victim of an ambush and dismissed an attempted murder charge.
Jackson acknowledged a previous felony conviction and faces up to six years in prison for having a gun. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 10.
"Johnny Jackson was the victim of an unprovoked attack by an AK-47 on the freeway." his attorney Annie Beles said. "He did nothing to cause the death of the child."
But nothing will bring back Jasper Wu, motivating the family to push for the maximum penalties.
Chan said the family is feeling disappointed knowing since his death, freeway shootings have persisted.
"They really wish to see justice not only for their family but they also want to see justice for all," he said. "Other families deserve the same justice."