Arguing 3 Strikes

The New York Times published an article about a friend of ours (the husband of a friend of Gay’s), Mike Romano, about his work to get egregious life-terms under California’s strict 3-strikes policy overturned. I’m all for locking career criminals up for life, but not for petty crimes. Accused murderers get more free legal resources, and a better chance of acquittal or successful appeal, than those accused of their 3rd strike:

In practical terms, Romano points out, the difference between being convicted of capital murder and a small-time third strike is this: a murderer is entitled to a far greater share of legal resources. California spends at least $300,000 on the defense side of a capital murder trial. The courts give extra scrutiny to each capital appeal that comes before them. And it’s only in death-penalty cases that the state pays lawyers to file a writ of habeas corpus, the route to challenging a conviction once direct appeal has been exhausted.

The article talks of a guy who was convicted of three thefts over 15 years amounting to a few hundred dollars in property. He was thrown in jail for the rest of his life.

In court, Romano and his students don’t simply argue that their clients are minor offenders who don’t deserve to spend the rest of their lives in prison. … Romano argues that, as in capital cases, his clients deserve to ask for lesser sentences based on “mitigating evidence” — often of child abuse, mental illness or mental retardation.

Mike’s a lawyer who is using his powers for good instead of evil. (That’s a joke, I have a ton of respect for good lawyers).

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