Three Strikes initiative garners enough signatures for November election ballot

More than 830,000 supporters signed an initiative drafted by members of Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project that, if passed by voters, would modify California’s Three Strikes Law. State election officials received the signatures last Thursday.

The initiative received 504,760 more signatures than needed, meaning it will appear on the November 2012 ballot pending approval by the secretary of state and county official boards.

Voters passed California’s Three Strikes Law in 1994. Under the law, state courts are required to sentence third-time offenders to 25 years to life in prison regardless of whether the third offense is defined as violent or serious.

Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project, established in 2006, represents individuals serving life sentences under the law. Michael Romano, the project’s director, told The Daily in November that the law has resulted in life imprisonment for relatively small crimes.

“That is not a way to run a state or a criminal justice policy,” Romano said. “A life sentence for petty theft or drug possession is excessive.”

The initiative, which the Three Strikes Project started crafting more than a year ago after being approached by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, would reduce the sentence for third offenses to double the normal penalty.

Mike Reynolds, who helped draft the original law after his daughter Kimber was murdered in 1992, argued against any revisions. In an interview with The Daily in November, he said that California saw a 37 percent drop in crime the first four years the law was implemented.

Reynolds maintained this position in a recent interview with the San Jose Mercury News.

“It’s easy if you live in Palo Alto, where Stanford is and where it’s safe, to be for this,” Reynolds said. “The only question voters need to answer is which of these offenders with at least two serious or violent convictions on their record would you like to have living next door to you? And if you wouldn’t want them next door to you, why would you put them next to any California family?”

Proposition 66, a previous attempt to revise the Third Strikes Law, failed by 3 percent in 2004. This proposition would have changed the definition of some felonies and required that the third offense be a special violent or serious crime to mandate the 25 years to life sentence. Governor Jerry Brown, then mayor of Oakland, opposed Proposition 66.

Brown has not commented on the new initiative.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican, and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, a Democrat, however, have both recently thrown their support behind the latest initiative.

 

– Kurt Chirbas