Patterico's Pontifications

8/29/2004

How Many Criminals Will the Upcoming Three Strikes Initiative Release? An Analysis

Filed under: No on 66 — Patterico @ 9:29 pm

There is no dispute that Proposition 66, the initiative to gut the Three Strikes law in California, will release thousands of criminals with multiple convictions for serious and/or violent offenses. Let me be plain: anyone who tells you different is either lying, or doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

But proponents and opponents of the initiative disagree significantly as to the number of criminals who will be released. The initiative’s proponents maintain that only about 3500 inmates, all serving “third-strike” sentences of 25 years to life, will be resentenced. Opponents argue that this number exceeds 4000. In addition, opponents argue, almost 22,000 inmates serving “second-strike” sentences will also be entitled to resentencing and early release — making a total of over 26,000 criminals who may be released within 1-6 months of the initiative’s passage.

Who is right?

As so often happens in the law, the answer is not entirely clear. In my opinion, the statute is most reasonably read as releasing only “third-strikers” serving 25-to-life sentences for current convictions for non-strikes. However, the initiative’s opponents have a good argument that the language is ambiguous, and may well allow “second-strikers” to be resentenced as well.

The fact that there can be such significant disagreement on such an important point is a testament to the initiative’s sloppiness and lack of clarity. It is not impossible that the ambiguities have been inserted deliberately by the clever defense attorneys who wrote the initiative, so that they can argue to the public that only 3500-4000 criminals will be released — even as they prepare their briefs arguing that over 26,000 criminals (including second-strikers) must be resentenced under the terms of the new law.

More likely, the ambiguities are due to incredibly sloppy drafting. Evidence for this conclusion can be found in the numerous grammatical errors throughout the resentencing provision alone. [UPDATE: See UPDATE x2 below. Many of these are fixed in the most recent version.]

For me, the debate, while interesting, is not determinative. I think it’s bad enough that over 3500 third-strikers will be released. But voters should make their decisions armed with all the facts. And the fact is that this poorly drafted initiative may — but shouldn’t — result in the release of almost 22,000 second-strike felons.

In the extended entry, I discuss the specific language that provides for resentencing of criminals under the law. Following the various arguments is painstaking work, to be sure, but I’ll try to keep it simple and straightforward. Understanding what this proposition will actually do is a worthwhile exercise for citizens of this state, because the stakes are incredibly high. If you are patient and persistent, you should be able to follow me through this maze.

Here are the details:
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Iraq: Better Under Saddam? You Be the Judge — Because the French Won’t

Filed under: War — Patterico @ 1:38 pm

Erik at ˇNo Pasarán! has a very interesting Comments Off on Iraq: Better Under Saddam? You Be the Judge — Because the French Won’t

More Evidence That The Press Wants Kerry to Win

Filed under: Media Bias — Patterico @ 9:23 am

Interesting statements made this morning on Howard Kurtz’s show “Reliable Sources,” by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders. Let’s go to the transcript:

KURTZ: I mention MoveOn, because there are a lot of liberal groups, as you know, Debra Saunders, these 527s — have there been a double standard in the media in not trying to make Kerry denounce the liberal ads, while reporters ask the president every day, why won’t you disassociate yourself from the swift boat ads?

SAUNDERS: I’ve never seen a voter say to John Kerry, but couldn’t you just denounce the ad? Or they say that Bush is whatever. They don’t ask him that question. But how many reporters would look at Bush and say, can’t you just denounce this one ad? I think that we get used in this. And I think the other thing that I find so…

KURTZ: You’re suggesting a double standard?

SAUNDERS: I am suggesting a double standard.

KURTZ: Why do you think that is?

SAUNDERS: I think that most journalists support John Kerry.

KURTZ: You really think that that’s the reason?

SAUNDERS: Yes, I do. I work for “The San Francisco Chronicle.”

Now, Debra Saunders is a Bush supporter, so her statements don’t carry quite the same stunning revelatory force as, say, liberal Newsweek editor Evan Thomas’s admission that the “media wants Kerry to win.” But Saunders works with the people at the Chronicle. Is she lying about their political predilections? I don’t think so.

(Thanks to Cori Dauber for alerting me to this.)

527s: Who Has the Money?

Filed under: 2004 Election — Patterico @ 7:51 am

N.Z. Bear has the details.


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