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Prosecutors And Defense Lawyers Gird For 'Three Strikes' Changes

Publication Date: 
November 16, 2012
Daily Journal
Henry Meier

Lecturer Michael Romano spoke with the Daily Journal's Henry Meier on how the passage of Proposition 36, which curtailed the three-strikes law, will impact the California court system. 

When California voters passed Proposition 36 last week, they curtailed the "three-strikes" law, including giving a subset of defendants convicted under the statute a chance to appeal their sentences and reduce their prison terms if a judge approves. But implementing all facets of the initiative might prove dicey. While many district attorneys say they're confident they'll be able to adapt to the legal changes going forward, prosecutors, defense attorneys and criminal justice insiders are worried about the retroactive portion of the law.

"Making sure everyone who is eligible for release gets access to a fair hearing [is challenging]," said Michael Romano, a Stanford Law School professor and director of its Three-Strikes Project.

Romano said he wasn't worried about the hearings in which third-strikers can attempt to challenge their sentences, but figuring out who should get one could be a nightmare.

"The people we're talking about are disproportionately mentally ill and illiterate ... and they have to file the petition themselves," he said. "I'm concerned about the system identifying folks who are eligible for release."