Post Conviction/Sentencing

A Third of Three-Strikes Inmates in California Could Benefit from Vote to Ease Law

About 3,000 inmates who received lengthy sentences under California’s tough three-strikes law could benefit as a result of a referendum approved Tuesday to change the statute.

The ballot measure changes the law so that offenders whose third-strike is relatively minor can no longer be sent to prison for 25 years to life, the Los Angeles Times reports. The change is retroactive, potentially benefiting about one-third of those inmates imprisoned for a third-strike offense, some 3,000 offenders.

Defense lawyers are planning to seek sentence reductions, though judges can reject the requests for inmates who are a danger to public safety. Also barred from release are inmates with prior convictions for rape, murder and child molestation.

About 69 percent of California voters approved the referendum. One of the authors was Michael Romano, who heads Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project, according to the Times and the National Law Journal. The project represents inmates convicted of minor third strikes.

Romano’s students also worked on drafting and promoting the measure.”I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Romano told the NLJ. “They were the heart and soul of this, and they did the lion’s share of the work.”

California voters were in more of a law-and-order mood on another criminal justice measure, rejecting a proposal to abolish the death penalty in the state.

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