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November 2, 2011

"Stanford law professors submit proposed initiative to limit Three Strikes Law"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece out of California.  Here is how the piece starts:

An effort to limit California's tough Three Strikes Law is gaining momentum, with a proposed ballot initiative that would reserve the toughest penalty -- 25 years to life -- for the baddest of the bad, including murderers, rapists and child molesters.

The initiative, now under state legal review, was carefully crafted by a group of Stanford University law professors and stops far short of the extensive changes proposed under a previous reform measure that narrowly failed in 2004.

The Legislature and voters passed the Three Strikes Law in 1994 after several high-profile murders committed by ex-felons sparked public outrage, including the kidnapping from her Petaluma home and strangling of 12-year-old Polly Klaas.  Since then, the courts have sent more than 80,000 "second-strikers" and 7,500 "third-strikers" to state prison, according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office.

Though third-strikers make up just 6 percent of the prison population, they are responsible for a disproportionate share of the state's spiraling prison health care costs -- at least $100 million annually -- as they age and need more medical attention, according to the California auditor.

The previous measure, Proposition 66, sought to restrict felonies that trigger a "third" strike to violent or serious crimes. Under the existing law, life sentences have been issued for such relatively minor crimes as stealing a pair of socks, attempting to break into a soup kitchen to get something to eat and forging a check for $146 at Nordstrom.

In contrast, the new initiative allows certain hard-core criminals, including murderers, rapists and child molesters, to be put away for life for any felony, including shoplifting, while restricting the third strike to a serious or violent felony for everyone else.  "We're making absolutely sure that these (hard-core) criminals get no benefit whatsoever from the reform, no matter what third strike they commit," said Dan Newman, a spokesman for the campaign.

November 2, 2011 at 04:42 PM | Permalink


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Nothing good ever came from a Stanford educated lawyer!

Posted by: albeed | Nov 2, 2011 9:41:13 PM

I have long believed that california's three strike law is flagrantly unconstitutional. As I've commented many times on the blog, I don't see how the concept of "wobblers" can coexist with separation of powers. It is not up to the judiciary to decide if a particular crime is a felony or a misdemeanor.
That is exclusively the legislature's role.


Posted by: bruce cunningham | Nov 3, 2011 7:03:08 AM


CA had wobblers long before 3K and the wobbler concept has little actual application in most 3K cases, so even if it was unconstitutional, 3K would still be around. That is unless you think the courts would throw out the entire Penal Code as unseverable, which I doubt.

Having read the initiative, it has a good shot. It doesn't tinker with the list of serious and violent felonies and it doesn't wholesale get rid of 3K when the new offense is not serious and not violent. It also does not propose to resentence tens of thousands of offenders, only those serving a 3K sentence.

By my comments, do not think I endorse this initiative, I don't, but it's terms are very cleverly drawn for maximum voter attractiveness.

Posted by: David | Nov 3, 2011 10:33:24 AM

Thanks for sharing this! It's exactly what I was looking for.

Posted by: Augusto | Nov 11, 2011 2:59:16 AM

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