The L.A. Times runs a story this morning titled Impact of 3-Strikes Law Still Unclear. Thanks to the story, the way the Three Strikes law works is also unclear.
It’s really not that hard to describe the operation of the 25-to-life portion of the Three Strikes law. Someone who has two prior convictions for serious or violent felonies (crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, arson, and residential burglary, to name just a few) is subject to a 25-to-life sentence upon conviction of any third felony.
Even though this is a ridiculously simple thing to explain, the editors often forget to tell readers the part about how the first two convictions have to be strikes. Today is no exception. Nowhere does today’s story explain to readers that the first two strikes have to be serious or violent. Instead, it suggests that any three felony convictions can lead to a 25-to-life sentence:
Under the law, a defendant convicted of a third felony can be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. . . . Critics are most unhappy about a provision that permits any felony — not just a serious or violent crime — to be charged as a third strike.
All technically true, and all highly misleading. It’s so easy to describe the law accurately, yet the paper seems hellbent on trying to persuade readers that someone can be incarcerated for life for committing three nonserious and nonviolent crimes. And this is not the first time the paper has done this, either.
In light of the paper’s long history of distorting the facts on Three Strikes (as I have documented repeatedly on this site), it’s hard to see today’s misleading description of the law as pure accident. As with repeat criminal offenders, after a while, you start to see a pattern.
(Thanks to Mrs. P. and MOG for mentioning the piece.)