Monday, August 16, 2010

Three-Striker Released by L.A. Judge: Textbook Injustice Remedied

Once in a while, everyone realizes the monstrous nature and effects of the Three Strikes Law. NPR reports:

A judge on Monday ordered the release of a man who spent 13 years behind bars for trying to steal food from a church, his third offense under California's three-strikes law.

The Stanford Law Project filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking freedom for Taylor, who was sentenced in 1997 to 25 years to life under California's three-strikes law. The district attorney did not oppose the group's move.

. . .

Taylor was arrested 13 years ago while trying to pry open a screen above the kitchen door at St. Joseph's Church in downtown Los Angeles.

He was convicted of third-strike burglary due to convictions of robbery twice in the 1980s, once for stealing a purse containing $10 and once for trying to rob a man on the street. He didn't use a weapon in either case, and no one was injured.

The Rev. Alan McCoy testified Taylor was often given food and allowed to sleep at the church. He told the court that Taylor was a peaceful man who made mistakes and was struggling with homelessness and crack addiction.

Judge Espinoza quoted from McCoy's testimony Monday and said the three-strikes sentencing policies of the 1990s "produced inconsistent and disproportionate results."

It was not uncommon for prosecutors to insist on sentences of 25-years-to-life at the time, he said, but "the fact that the law was so new produced unintended — at least unanticipated — consequences."

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