Patterico's Pontifications


The Readers’ Rep Responds on the L.A. Times’s Error on Three Strikes

Filed under: General,No on 36 — Patterico @ 6:00 pm

Responding to my complaint, the L.A. Times has corrected the voter guide on Proposition 36. They had erroneously stated that a defendant with two prior strikes who commits a third felony is “automatically sentenced to 25 years to life” — “no matter what the seriousness” of the third felony. Today, they changed the language.

So: Great Success, right?

Yeah, not so much. Here is the new language:

Under current law, when someone with two or more serious or violent felony convictions is convicted of a third felony — no matter what the seriousness — he or she is supposed to be sentenced to 25 years to life.

“Supposed to”? When it almost never happens these days?

Sigh. Here is my follow-up email:

Ms. Edgar,

Thank you for your quick attention to my email today. Unfortunately, the new language is still substantially misleading. The new language says: “Under current law, when someone with two or more serious or violent felony convictions is convicted of a third felony — no matter what the seriousness — he or she is supposed to be sentenced to 25 years to life.”

It’s a step in the right direction to remove the misleading language stating that a 25 to life sentence is “mandatory.” However, to say a defendant “is supposed to” be sentenced to 25 to life “no matter what the seriousness” of the third felony is simply not the law or the practice in Los Angeles County or others.

The term “supposed to” is defined as follows:

(usually with to) meant, expected, required, obliged. He produced a handwritten note of nine men he was supposed to kill.

But in Los Angeles County and other counties, criminals with two strikes on their record are not “meant, expected, required, or obliged” to be sentenced to 25 years to life, if their current crime is neither serious nor violent. Under Steve Cooley’s policy, such people are presumed to be treated as second strikers, and merely have their sentence doubled. And the overwhelming majority of such defendants are not sentenced to 25 to life. How can they be “expected, required, or obliged” to be given 25 years to life when it is presumed that they won’t be and almost never are?

Your language conveys the impression that a 25 to life sentence for a current non-strike offense is expected and even obligatory, when the opposite is true: such sentences are quite rare.

What the guide ought to say is that current law authorizes a 25 to life sentence for any felony committed by a suspect with two prior strikes. However, under current law, a judge may strike priors and give a lower sentence, after considering the suspect’s criminal history, the seriousness of the current offense, and the suspect’s prospects for leading a law-abiding future. The proposition, by contrast, removes any ability to sentence prisoners to life when the current offense is neither serious nor violent, with certain enumerated exceptions.

Yours truly,

Patrick Frey


  1. Ding.

    Comment by Patterico (8b3905) — 10/29/2012 @ 6:26 pm

  2. The Los Angeles Times has given its readers all of the facts as they soon as they knew them.

    Comment by SPQR (768505) — 10/29/2012 @ 6:28 pm

  3. number of chances they’ll change it a second time:

    2 == fat and no.

    Comment by Jcw46 (b4329c) — 10/29/2012 @ 6:43 pm

  4. Tell them to do a “fact-check” article on some claim by the proponents.

    Maybe they’ll even let you write a “fact-check” op-ed piece.

    Comment by Sammy Finkelman (52d790) — 10/29/2012 @ 6:43 pm

  5. Patrick, they know you. Maybe if you signed Valerie Jarrett’s name to the correction requests that you send to the Dog Trainer they’d be more likely to pay attention and comply.

    Comment by elissa (6b23b9) — 10/29/2012 @ 6:50 pm

  6. If it turns out you have to write this goofball Edgar woman a third time, you should reach for the painfully obvious snark, “Ms. Edgar, you already have two strikes—three strikes, and yer…”

    Comment by Elephant Stone (65d289) — 10/29/2012 @ 7:11 pm

  7. You can’t argue with A-holes.

    Comment by AZ Bob (1c9631) — 10/29/2012 @ 9:24 pm

  8. About the level of responsibility I expect from an outfit like the LAT.
    Because it’s all about plausible deniability, not accuracy.

    If the LAT responds to any follow up complaints, they will claim the current story is ‘close enough’ or ‘it’s a judgement call’ or ‘editorial discretion’. Facts don’t matter to them, only effective propaganda matters to them.

    Comment by Brad (4e9f5d) — 10/29/2012 @ 10:55 pm

  9. Not sure where to post this, but since this is about the LA Times…,0,6605340.column

    Jonah Goldberg in the LAT about Benghazi

    Comment by MD in Philly (3d3f72) — 10/30/2012 @ 6:56 am

  10. Kudos for keeping your correspondence snark-free. It’s hard to keep a straight face while you and they both pretend that the LAT cares about accuracy.

    Comment by Beldar (b4a03c) — 10/30/2012 @ 9:04 pm

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