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Assignment - Three Strike Lifers

Publication Date: 
October 08, 2009
BBC World Service via NPR
Robert Walker

The BBC's "Assignment" series ran this radio documentary on mandatory sentencing in California under "Three Strikes" law. For the documentary, Robert Walker interviewed Lecturer Michael Romano who teaches the Stanford Criminal Defense Clinic, through which Stanford Law School students are helping to remedy life sentences for some non-violent offenders. Walker reports:

Fifteen years ago, following the brutal murders of two girls by repeat offenders, Californians voted overwhelmingly in favour of a tough new crime measure. Under the 'three strikes’ law, criminals convicted of a second serious offence must serve double the normal sentence. Those convicted of a third strike, get 25 years to life. What makes the law different from similar laws in other states is that the third strike does not have to be a serious or violent crime. One inmate is serving life for stealing a pair of socks when aged 19. Now a group of law students at Stanford Law School are fighting to get some of the 'third strike lifers' released. For Assignment, Rob Walker investigates one of these cases: a Vietnam veteran sentenced to life for possession of 0.03 grams of heroin. And we meet the families of the murdered girls. They helped draft the three strikes law – but are now bitterly divided among themselves about its impact.