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Patterico - Contributor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patterico is a prosecutor in Los Angeles County. He grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, majored in music and English at Cornell University, and attended the University of Texas Law School in Austin, Texas. Before accepting a job as a Deputy District Attorney, he was law clerk to the Honorable William D. Keller, U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California, and an associate in the Los Angeles office of Shearman and Sterling.

In addition to prosecuting criminals, Patterico maintains a blog called Patterico's Pontifications. Topics include media bias, legal issues, and political discussion from a libertarian/conservative perspective. A frequent target of criticism is the Los Angeles Dog Trainer (aka the Los Angeles Times). [go to Patterico index]

 

The Wrong Solution For Three Strikes
Proposition 66...
[Patterico] 11/1/04

In a cruel irony, Proposition 66 is titled the "Three Strikes and Child Protection Act of 2004." If there were truth in advertising, it would be titled the "Get Millionaire Jerry Keenan's Son Out of Prison Early Act of 2004." The measure is primarily bankrolled by a rich man trying to shorten his son's prison sentence for manslaughter. Proposition 66 will not protect children. On the contrary, it will endanger children and other innocents, by releasing child molesters, murderers, and other dangerous offenders.

For example, Joseph Noble is a sexual predator who targeted extremely young girls. In a typical case, Noble tried to force a seven-year-old girl to perform oral sex on him, then choked her into unconsciousness. He told police that he had fantasized about raping and murdering two-year-old girls. Sheriff's deputies found a note he had written, which said in part:

Sadistically raping or sodomizing a beautiful young girl gives me incredible pleasure. Their screams of agony are music to my ears, as I brutally mutilate their undeveloped tiny genitals for hours at a time.
Noble is serving 25-to-life for indecent exposure. At trial, he admitted he still has violent sexual fantasies about children. The sentencing judge said Noble "has all but promised he is going to re-offend."

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 prison.

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

This piece originally appeared at the blog Patterico's Pontifications

copyright 2003 Patterico


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