Stanford Three Strikes Project
To date, Project students have been successful in every case that has reached final resolution. The client profiles featured below are representative of the Project's many success stories:
In 1996, Norman Williams was sentenced to life under the Three Strikes law for stealing a car jack from the back of an open tow truck. Prior to the initial student visits in October 2007, Mr. Williams had not seen or spoken to any attorney, family member, or friend outside of prison for over a decade. Project students Jesse Goodman ('08) and Mark Melhan ('09) obtained records documenting that Mr. Williams suffered terrible childhood abuse and struggled with a mental disability throughout his life. On April 6, 2009, Kathleen Fox ('10) appeared before the same Superior Court judge who sentenced Mr. Williams to life in 1996 and successfully argued that new evidence presented by Project students entitled Mr. Williams to a reduced sentence. On April 24, 2009, Mr. Williams was released from Folsom State Prison. He now lives in Palo Alto and has obtained a full-time job and an apartment. His story was featured in the New York Times Magazine.
In 1998, Vincent Rico was sentenced to life under the Three Strikes law for the petty theft of two pairs of children's shoes from Ross Dress for Less. Project students Emily Magid ('09) and David Muraskin ('09) obtained new evidence that Mr. Rico was subjected to extreme gang violence as a child and likely suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office ultimately agreed that arguments presented in pleadings prepared by Emily and David entitled Mr. Rico to a new, reduced sentence. On July 13, 2009, the Superior Court in Los Angeles ordered Mr. Rico released from prison based on the 11 years he had already served for his crime. Mr. Rico now lives in Southern California with his wife, works full-time, and supports his two grown sons in their endeavors: one son is serving his country in the U.S. Army and the other is excelling in college.
In 1996, Charles Ramirez was convicted and sentenced to life under the Three Strikes law for stealing a car radio. At his sentencing hearing, the trial court incorrectly ruled that he was required to impose a life sentence. Students Jennifer Martinez ('09), Jennifer Robinson ('09), Esteban Rodriguez ('09), Kathleen Fox ('10), and Annie Osburn ('10) corrected the original judge's sentencing error in habeas pleadings and presented new evidence describing the extreme conditions Mr. Ramirez suffered as a child, his ensuing homelessness, drug addiction, and non-violent criminal activity. On April 22, 2009, a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles heard argument in the students' petition and ultimately granted relief, ordering Mr. Ramirez released based on the 12 years he had already served for his crime. Mr. Ramirez is currently thriving in Los Angeles with a full-time job, 15 years clean and sober, and a recently acquired drivers' license.
In 1997, Alex Maese was sentenced to life under the Three Strikes law for possession of a fragment of a cotton ball containing 0.029 grams of heroin. No mitigating information was provided to the court at the time of his sentencing. Project students Natalie Saba ('09) and Cameron Johnson ('09) obtained evidence from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs documenting that Mr. Maese suffers from combat-induced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from his service in Viet Nam. They also obtained expert testimony that Mr. Maese self-medicated his PTSD with heroin and that his executive functioning was severely compromised. Based on habeas briefing by Cameron and Natalie, and oral argument by Thomas Scott ('10) and Jessica Feinstein ('10), a California Superior Court in Kern County held that Mr. Maese's original trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present mitigating evidence concerning Mr. Maese's mental health and related drug abuse. On November 10, 2008, the court granted a writ of habeas corpus, vacated Mr. Maese's Three Strikes sentence, and ordered his release based on the 11 years he had already served for his crime. Having completed a residential drug rehabilitation program through the VA, Mr. Maese has started a new life in Los Angeles.
In 1997, Gregory Taylor was sentenced to life under the Three Strikes law for breaking into a church soup kitchen to take food he knew the church would happily give him. From the moment of his arrest, Mr. Taylor's case struck the hearts of many Californians who did not believe a life sentence was an appropriate punishment for Mr. Taylor's crime. Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley has repeatedly cited Mr. Taylor as an example of disproportionate sentencing under California's Three Strikes law. In 2010, Project students Gabriel Martinez ('10) and Reiko Rogozen ('11) found evidence showing that Mr. Taylor suffered from untreated mental illness since adolescence and was homeless at the time of his third strike. The Los Angeles District Attorney's office conceded that this new evidence placed Mr. Taylor "outside the spirit" of the Three Strikes law and declined to oppose the pleadings prepared by Gabriel and Reiko. On August 16, 2010, the Superior Court in Los Angeles resentenced Mr. Taylor as a second-striker and ordered him released from prison based on the 13 years he has already served for his crime. Mr. Taylor now lives in Southern California with his brother, working as a manager in a sober-living community.