It turns out that the dangerous upcoming initiative to gut the Three Strikes law was bankrolled by a rich guy who wants to shorten his son’s prison sentence for killing two people.
An article appearing in today’s Los Angeles Times reports that an insurance agent named Jerry Keenan spent $1.56 million to gather signatures for the ballot initiative. Keenan’s son is serving an eight year prison sentence for gross vehicular manslaughter. The son, drunk on beer and high on marijuana, drove a car with four passengers to a “winding, back road where he could drive at high speeds” reaching 95 mph. He lost control of the car, which “flipped four times.” Two passengers died. As so often happens in such cases, the driver did not.
Keenan’s son entered a guilty plea to two counts of vehicular manslaughter, and also admitted that he had caused great bodily injury to a third passenger. Owing to the vagaries of California sentencing law, this crime was a strike only because of the “great bodily injury” allegation.
But, as I have pointed out before, a very dangerous provision in the upcoming initiative says that you can personally cause great bodily injury to someone in the course of committing a felony, and it will no longer be a strike if you didn’t specifically intend to cause the injury. I gave an example in which a defendant
drives the wrong way on the freeway for five miles, at speeds of over 100 miles per hour. Several cars spin out of control, and multiple motorists receive injuries ranging from bruises and scratches to more serious injuries such as concussions and broken bones. One motorist goes into a coma.
I noted that this would not constitute a strike under the proposed new law.
I thought that provisions like this had been written by the defense bar generally, to benefit a class of criminals. I was naive. Little did I know that this provision had been inserted in the initiative by Keenan’s lawyer, for the specific purpose of getting Keenan’s son out of prison.
Under the proposed initiative, the killing of two people by Keenan’s son will no longer be considered a strike. Instead of having to serve 85% of his sentence, he will have to serve only half. He could get out by the end of this year.
Hey, if you could reach in your back pocket and pull out a mil and a half to get your kid sprung from prison, wouldn’t you do it?
Many people arguing against the Three Strikes law have argued that the law never should have been changed due to one specific case (that of Richard Allen Davis, the murderer of Polly Klaas). I wonder how those people feel about this.
Final point: Kudos to the L.A. Times for running this story. If the paper’s past coverage of Three Strikes is any indication, the paper will offer plenty of sophistry and misleading coverage of the initiative in upcoming weeks. However, this was a solid and important story.
Will future stories on the proposed initiative remind us who bankrolled it and why? Or will this story disappear into the ether, never to be mentioned again?
Time will tell.
[UPDATE: The original version of this post mistakenly stated that Keenan was the owner of an insurance company. My problem was relying on the Times. Keenan is an insurance agent who apparently owns several brokerages. Thanks to Xrlq for the correction.]