(Warning: disturbing, though fictional, images are described below. We are talking about crime here, after all.)
Today is Question Two in my ongoing set of quiz questions designed to reveal frightening aspects of the upcoming initiative to gut the Three Strikes law. Question One came yesterday, and revealed that Night Stalker Richard Ramirez would receive only one strike prior under the new law, for his 13 murder convictions and 30 related rape and robbery convictions.
Today’s question addresses another crime favorite: Charlie Manson.
Responding to pressure from liberals and the media, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger started aggressively paroling murderers. And so it came to pass that all living Manson family members were paroled.
You come home one day, and upon opening your door are greeted by a horrific scene before you even cross the threshold. The word “PIG” is written on the living room wall in huge red letters, made from your cat’s blood. Leslie van Houten is holding down your cat as Patricia Krenwinkel carves a word in the howling cat’s stomach, then guts it and hands it to Charlie. Swinging the disemboweled cat in one hand and pointing at you with the other hand, Charlie Manson screams at you: “I had them kill your cat, and I’ll have them kill you too! We’ll cut you up!” You turn on your heel and run — never having entered your residence.
a) What is the maximum prison sentence Manson faces under current law for his leadership role in these crimes?
b) What is the maximum prison sentence Manson will face for his leadership role in these crimes — once the new law passes?
a) Under current law, Manson will go to prison for the rest of his natural life.
Manson appears to be guilty of three basic felonies: residential burglary, a criminal death threat, and cruelty to animals. Cruelty to animals has never been a strike, but residential burglary and criminal death threats are. Manson can receive 25 years to life for each — never mind the 45 additional years for his nine previous strikes. He’ll never get out again.
b) Under the amended law, Manson can receive a maximum sentence of eight years and four months.
Under the amended law, criminal death threats are no longer strikes. Residential burglary is also reclassified as a non-strike, unless a non-accomplice is present inside the residence during the burglary. But you never entered the residence.
Having received nine murder convictions in two separate cases, Manson has two (not nine) strike priors — under the rule discussed yesterday of “one strike per trial.” This still makes him a potential third-striker — but not in this case. Because, you see, in this case he has not committed any “serious or violent” current felony.
So, Manson can be sentenced to a maximum of six years on the burglary, plus one year for his previous prison commitment, plus 8 months for the death threat, plus 8 months for ordering the killing of the cat. That’s eight years and four months.
He’ll serve half that time.
Some have complained that I am harping on examples of people who won’t ever be released from prison in any event. Tomorrow, I will discuss how the law would benefit criminals who could or did go free — including one whose case is more relevant to the Three Strikes law than any other.