Patterico's Pontifications

10/30/2012

Meet Your Future Neighbor, Part 2 of a Series (No on 36)

Filed under: General,No on 36 — Patterico @ 7:16 am

Another person you might see moving in next door if we pass Proposition 36, the proposition to gut Three Strikes:

LUPE ESCOBEDO

Escobedo was been convicted of 17 robberies he committed in 1986 and 1987. Fifteen of those robberies were accomplished while he was armed with either a handgun or a knife. During several of these robberies Escobedo and his accomplices threatened to kill the grocery store employees he was robbing. Escobedo was sentenced to prison for these robberies; but his life of crime continued after his release, with convictions for resisting an officer, possession of controlled substances, and driving under the influence.

Prior to his commitment offense, Escobedo was arrested for felony child abuse. He was released pending further investigation. Next, he was arrested and charged with possession of stolen property, but his 17 priors were undiscovered. Escobedo was released on his own recognizance and failed to appear. Thus he was a fugitive when Escobedo was spotted in a stolen vehicle parked in front of a motel. He resisted arrest, fighting and threatening the officers who apprehended him. In his motel room officers found a sawed off shotgun. When Escobedo was informed that his shotgun had been located, he stated: “It’s good that I didn’t make it back to the room. … I’m going to be doing 150 years, what difference would it be to take out a cop.”

Escobedo was convicted of a felony failure to appear, receiving stolen property, and resisting or delaying an officer. Based on his numerous strike priors for robbery, he was sentenced to 50 years to life in state prison.

If Escobedo were re-sentenced pursuant to Proposition 36, his new maximum potential sentence would be no more than seven years and six months in state prison, reduced further by custody credits since it would be a determinate-term sentence.

Hi, Mr. Escobedo. Welcome to the neighborhood! What do you do?

Oh.

Previous entry here.

10/29/2012

Meet Your Future Neighbor, Part 1 of a Series (No on 36)

Filed under: General,No on 36 — Patterico @ 7:17 pm

The California District Attorneys Association has done an excellent study (.pdf) of the horrible Proposition 36 to gut three strikes. In the study they have several examples of people who might be released if this turkey passes. I’ll be featuring several in an ongoing series, starting with this one:

ERVIN COLE

In 1984, Cole was convicted of robbery using a firearm. In 1991 he was convicted of burglary. A year later, Cole was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. Cole was sentenced to prison for each of these convictions. After his release, he violated parole five times from 1989 through 1997. During this same time, Cole was also convicted of two misdemeanors.

In 1999, Cole was observed driving a stolen vehicle, and police officers attempted to stop him. Instead of stopping in response to police lights and sirens, Cole accelerated rapidly and led police on a chase. He swerved in and out of traffic, reached a speed of more than 85 miles an hour on a residential street, ran two red lights and three stop signs, swerved into opposing lanes of traffic, and nearly crashed into several other cars. Cole finally collided with another vehicle, spun out of control, and his vehicle rolled over. Cole’s passenger and the driver of the other vehicle were injured. Cole fled on foot and was tackled by a police officer.

Cole pled guilty to felony evading arrest, car theft, and felony hit-and-run. He admitted two strike priors, and was sentenced to prison for 25 years to life.

If Cole were re-sentenced pursuant to Proposition 36, his new maximum potential sentence would be no more than eight years and eight months in state prison, reduced further by custody credits since it would be a determinate-term sentence.

We learn a few things here — things I already knew, but that (perhaps) you didn’t. Felony evading is not a “serious or violent” felony. Nor is felony hit and run. Nor, obviously, is car theft.

Remember that the next time you think that non-strikes are no big deal.

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

My Letter to the L.A. Times Readers’ Rep Regarding Proposition 36, the Proposition to Gut Three Strikes

Filed under: General,No on 36 — Patterico @ 7:30 am

I have just written the following email to the Readers’ Representative at the L.A. Times:

Ms. Edgar,

Your newspaper’s “voter guide” entry on Prop. 36 states: “Currently, 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 automatically sentenced to 25 years to life.” This is false. “Automatic” means “occurring as a necessary consequence” with no exceptions. But nobody is “automatically” sentenced to 25 years to life in California when their third strike is not serious or violent.

First, in Los Angeles and other counties, prosecutors exercise discretion in such cases, such that the overwhelming majority of potential third strikers are sentenced to determinate terms, usually under ten years.

Second, even in cases where a prosecutor decides to proceed with a case as a third strike, judges have the power under Penal Code section 1385 to strike a strike. This motion — called a “Romero” motion from the California Supreme Court case that ruled such motions are authorized by law — can be made by the judge without any request from the defendant. In such a motion, the judge considers a range of factors, including the seriousness and remoteness of the strike priors, the defendant’s behavior since his last strike prior, and his prospects for becoming a law-abiding member of society. Judges often use Romero motions to strike priors and sentence defendants to less than 25 to life. It happens literally daily across Los Angeles County.

It is misleading to say that a 25 to life sentence is “mandatory” for a current offense that is not serious or violent. It does not reflect what is happening in the state of California. I understand that the Los Angeles Times favors Proposition 36, but misleading your readers is not a legitimate way to attract support for a proposition.

It is imperative that this error be corrected before the election. I ask you to assign this correction the highest priority.

Yours truly,

Patrick Frey

They have their thumb on the scale. You can help me pry it off by adding your thoughts to Readers’ Rep Dierdre Edgar. Be polite and factual. She can be reached at readers.representative@latimes.com.

No on 36: Soros-Funded Proposition Will Fill the Streets with Criminals

Filed under: General,No on 36 — Patterico @ 12:01 am

Proposition 36 is a measure designed to weaken the Three Strikes law. As I write this, it seems destined to pass: polling consistently shows support over 60% and opposition under 30%. George Soros has spent a million dollars to support it. With Soros’s help, supporters are outspending opponents by more than 20 to 1.

What is all this money buying? The freedom of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of criminals with multiple serious and/or violent felonies on their record.

I plan several posts in coming days about how dangerous this proposition would be. The L.A. Times and others have tried to sell you a bill of goods. They claim that Proposition 36 might free only a few hundred (supposedly) aging prisoners who will (supposedly) be Certified Nonviolent by a judge, as opposed to the status quo where prisoners are (supposedly) “automatically” sentenced to 25 to life, and the prisons are (supposedly) being crammed to the hilt with thousands of nonviolent offenders. And don’t worry! Anyone with “homicide offenses” on their record will (supposedly) stay in for life.

That’s what you’re being told. But most of what you’re being told is wrong.

Even today, nobody is “automatically” sentenced to 25 to life, despite the L.A. Times‘s false claims to the contrary. Potential third-strikers already receive individualized hearings before sentencing, in which judges take into account the circumstances of their upbringing, the remoteness and violent (or nonviolent) nature of their previous strikes, and their future prospects.

Only about 10% of third-strike prisoners are over 60. When the L.A. Times pretends the third-strike population is a bunch of nonviolent old codgers, they are playing games with the facts.

A judge will not have to certify that they are not violent. You heard me right. As I will fully explain in future posts, once this horrible proposition is passed, judges all over the state will be holding hearings where people with two violent convictions on their record are seeking their freedom. And judges will be telling prosecutors that these violent convictions are almost irrelevant to whether the defendants pose an “unreasonable” risk of harm to society as required by the law. “What more do you have to show he is violent, other than just his convictions for manslaughter and armed robbery?” will be a typical question heard in such hearings. The best evidence of the risk these people pose will be brushed aside — because the law assumes that people with multiple strikes will be freed. I’ll have much more on this in coming days.

The prisons are not crammed full of third strikers, because District Attorneys across the state are already exercising discretion under the law. In December 2003, we had 7,335 third strikers. In December 2011, there were 8,848, out of a total prison population of 184,807. That’s an increase of 1,513 in eight years, which is fewer than 200 per year. So third strikers are fewer than 5% of the prison population, and every year we give life sentences to another 200 people — a tiny number which represents only one tenth of one percent of the 2011 prison population.

You’re being told that “homicide offenses” will keep people from being released . . . but what you’re not being told is that voluntary manslaughter and certain forms of vehicular manslaughter are not among this collection of “homicide offenses.”

The bottom line is as simple as it is frightening: people with multiple convictions for manslaughter, armed robbery, residential burglary, and other horrible offenses will be walking the streets once this thing passes.

And ignoring or weakening the Three Strikes law has consequences. People like Lily Burk are dead because people like Charles Samuel walked the streets when the law could have put them away. And I promise you: the L.A. Times editors know this, which makes their editorializing in favor of Prop. 36 particularly distressing.

I can’t put everything in one post. Since I am addressing this important issue late in the game, I plan to blanket the blog with anti-36 posts between now and election day.

I probably won’t change the outcome. But I will have tried. And I promise you: when these people hit the streets and start hurting and killing people — and they will — I’ll be right here to tell you that I told you so.

UPDATE: Added the words “certain forms of” to the post. Some vehicular manslaughter priors will deprive third strikers of the chance to petition for freedom, but not all. Thanks to JRM.


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