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May 3, 2007

Challenge to 3-strikes sentence strikes out

Among lots of criminal justice coverage at How Appealing is this post noting the split (non-precedential) Ninth Circuit ruling rejecting a mentally ill man's challnege to his three-strikes sentence in Joshua v. Adams, 05-55437 (9th Cir. May 2, 2007) (involving a short majority opinion and a long dissent by Judge Ferguson). The San Francisco Chronicle covers the case effectively in this article, providing these highlights:

A federal appeals court upheld a mentally ill man's three-strikes sentence of 25 years to life Wednesday for shoplifting two bottles of liquor from a Southern California market, a sentence that a dissenting judge called "barbarous.''... 

Joshua, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, had been convicted of robbery five times since 1974 and had been in and out of prisons and mental hospitals in the decades before his shoplifting conviction, said his attorney, Jerry Sies.  He argued that a three-strikes sentence in such a case would violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment....

Sies, Joshua's lawyer, said he would ask the full appeals court for a rehearing. He declined to suggest an alternative sentence but said it should be much less than 25 years to life.  "His ability to control his impulses was severely damaged by virtue of his mental illness,'' Sies said. "His recidivism is not a conscious choice.'' 

Because of Judge Ferguson's strong dissent (and because one judge in the majority was sitting by designation), this case might have a real shot at en banc review.  And, with a case like Panetti now before the Supreme Court, the mental illness angle in this case also is worth watching for further developments.

May 3, 2007 at 02:11 PM | Permalink

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