Kenneth Parnell was convicted three times for kidnapping and
molesting young boys. Parnell's third strike was trying to purchase
a four-year-old boy for $500.
Andrew Abernathy stabbed two men in separate incidents. In 1998,
he threatened to chop off the head of his ex-wife's new husband
with a samurai sword. Police stopped Abernathy in his car with
the sword. Abernathy's third strike was animal cruelty -- he
decapitated his dog with pruning shears.
Steven Matthews was convicted of murder, kidnapping, robbery,
and assault with intent to commit murder. Four days after his
release from prison, Matthews raped his own mother. Matthews's
third strike was for possession of a two-foot machete, and a
geological hammer inscribed with the words "fag finder reminder."
These convicts are justifiably serving 25 years to life for
offenses that, while frightening, are not classified by statute
as "serious" or "violent." Proposition 66 will drastically reduce
their prison sentences, and those of as many as 26,000 similar
criminals. Most will be released immediately. Proposition 66
makes no distinction between truly nonviolent offenders and dangerous
criminals like Noble, Parnell, Abernathy, and Matthews, who are
virtually certain to prey on Californians again.
This is a recipe for disaster -- but the people behind Proposition
66 are not motivated by a concern for public safety. The measure
is primarily bankrolled by millionaire Jerry Keenan, whose son
killed two people while driving drunk and high on marijuana.
An obscure provision in Proposition 66, written by Keenan's lawyer,
will probably force the early release of Jerry Keenan's son from
Worse still, several sweeping changes to the Three Strikes law
are buried in the fine print of Proposition 66. Simple arson,
death threats, most residential burglaries, and many gang crimes
would no longer count as strikes. Serial rapists and murderers,
like "Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez, would earn only one strike
per case -- even if the case resulted in convictions for dozens
of violent crimes.
Proposition 66ís supporters overstate problems with the current
law. Even today, life sentences are not automatic; judges may
impose more lenient sentences in appropriate cases. The man
who infamously received 25-to-life for stealing pizza was resentenced
to a six-year term, which he has long since completed. Prosecutors
are also increasingly using their discretion to be more lenient
towards nonviolent offenders.
Although initiative proponents cite allegedly unjust 25-to-life
sentences, they often omit the full details of the inmates' criminal
histories. When those details are taken into account, the law
generally targets the right people. A Sacramento Bee study
examined the records of 233 third-strikers, and concluded: "In
the vast majority of the cases, regardless of the third strike,
the [Three Strikes] law is snaring [the] long-term habitual offenders
with multiple felony convictions."
While our current Three Strikes law is not perfect, Proposition
66 is not a reasonable reform. It's a cure that is far worse
than the disease. I urge you to vote "no" on 66. CRO