Three-strike law provokes judges to rebel
Thursday 28 July 1994
In a growing number of cases, judges are refusing to implement, or are seeking to by-pass, the draconian new measures because they believe they result in unreasonable jail terms and remove their right to exercise discretion.
Under the laws, people convicted of two serious or violent crimes face a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life if they are found guilty of a third offence of any kind. Someone with two robbery convictions committed 10 years previously can therefore be jailed for life for a relatively trivial offence - say, bouncing a cheque for a few hundred dollars. The law also contains a 'two-strikes' provision - doubling prison terms for second offences.
The legislation was passed in March amid a public outcry about lenient treatment of repeat offenders, which reached a climax over the abduction and murder of a 12- year-old girl whose killer was on parole with a record of violent crime. Dozens of other states have similar laws, or are planning to introduce them.
In California, however, one judge has described them as a 'piece of junk', and others have reduced defendants' serious crimes to lesser misdeamours to circumvent the new law.
The latest example concerns Jeffrey Missamore, who faces up to eight years in jail for possessing a small amount of marijuana in an open prison, because of a previous conviction for stealing a video recorder 10 years ago.
The judge, Lawrence Antolini, describes himself as 'not exactly a flaming liberal'. But in this case, he ruled the long mandatory prison sentence would violate US constitutional protection against 'cruel and unusual punishment'. He indicated that he intends to send Missamore to jail for a year. Prosecutors say they will appeal against the sentence.
The case is by no means unique. In San Diego, a judge refused to sentence a man to life for stealing a can of beer - and instead ordered his two prior convictions for more serious crimes to be dropped.
As the judicial revolt grows, it seems inevitable that the laws will be challenged in the US Supreme Court. In the meantime, Judge Antolini predicts California will go bankrupt - its coffers stripped bare by the cost of building jails.
- 1 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 2 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 3 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 5 Modern society encapsulated in five seconds
Costa Concordia: Shipment of Mob drugs was hidden aboard cruise liner when it hit rocks off Italian coast, investigators say
Germanwings crash: Captain of doomed plane was only 'on board because he changed job to spend more time with his children'
Iran nuclear talks: Prospect of deal with Iran pushes Saudi Arabia and Israel into an unlikely alliance
A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...
£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...
£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...
£45,000 - £55,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified accountant...