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Three-Strikes Sanity

Publication Date: 
May 16, 2009
Source: 
Los Angeles Times

The Criminal Defense Clinic is noted in a Los Angeles Times editorial about the its success in helping three-strikes offenders get reduced sentences:

California's three-strikes law has resulted in some egregious sentences; a Stanford University law clinic is helping to undo some of the damage.

...

Three-strikes requires a sentence of 25 years to life for a defendant who, having been convicted of two previous violent or serious crimes, is convicted of another, even a nonviolent offense. That has resulted in plenty of serious offenders being incarcerated, but it also has imposed long terms on many less serious felons. Today, roughly 40% of the third-strike offenders in California prisons are serving extraordinarily long sentences for nonviolent crimes

...

The Times' Jack Leonard reported on a Stanford University law clinic in which students are identifying particularly egregious examples and are succeeding in having some judges overturn draconian sentences. Norman Williams, for instance, was convicted of stealing a car jack and some tools from a tow truck and was sentenced to 25 years to life in 1997 because two burglary convictions and some drug offenses made his theft a third strike. The Stanford students persuaded Williams' sentencing judge to look again at the case, this time considering Williams' background and criminal history. The judge concluded that Williams' tool theft warranted a 10-year sentence. Williams is now free as a result.

The Stanford clinic has helped to undo some of the worst damage, but it can handle only about 20 cases at a time. ...