Three-strikes burglar wins early release

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The Independent US

After 13 years behind bars for trying to break in to a church kitchen for something to eat, a man sentenced under California's three-strikes law has been ordered released.

A Superior Court judge in Los Angeles amended the sentence to eight years already served and Gregory Taylor, 47, who was sentenced to 25 years to life in 1997, will be freed in a few days. Tears streamed down Taylor's face and Judge Peter Espinoza asked a bailiff to get him a tissue.

"I thought I was going to cry, too," said Reiko Rogozen, a law student who worked on the case as part of the Stanford Law School Three Strikes Project, which filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking freedom for Taylor. "He was scared up until the last minute that it wasn't actually going to happen."

Taylor thanked the court and his lawyers for "giving me another chance... and my family for sticking by me."

Taylor was arrested in July 1997 while trying to get into the kitchen of St Joseph's Church in Los Angeles. He told officers that he was hungry.

Taylor was convicted of third-strike burglary due to two convictions for street robbery in the 1980s. He had no weapons during those robberies, and no one was injured.

During an appeal, a dissenting state supreme court justice said Taylor was a 20th-century version of Jean Valjean, a character imprisoned for stealing bread in Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables.