Officials back `Three Strikes’ reform

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! PASADENA – A proposed change to the Three Strikes law is receiving broad support because it mandates that sentences of 25 years to life be restricted, in most cases, to situations where the third offense is a serious or violent felony, according to law enforcement officials and defense attorneys. The proposed Three Strikes Reform Act of 2006 is being backed by police, prosecutors and defense attorneys. It was submitted with the Attorney General’s Office in early January by Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and Brian T. Dunn of the Cochran law firm in Los Angeles. If it garners enough support, the measure could appear on the November ballot. “I think it’s long overdue,” Pasadena police Chief Bernard Melekian said of the proposed reform. “I’ve always thought Three Strikes was an excellent concept in public policy that was very flawed in its execution.” Proposition 184, the “Three Strikes” law, was passed in 1994 out of frustration with repeat violent offenders who seemed to be on a “revolving door” in and out of prison, Melekian said. A common criticism of the law is that it’s unfair and too expensive, because some repeat offenders receive 25-to-life sentences for minor third offenses that are classified as felonies because of prior convictions. Lael Rubin, head deputy for the District Attorney’s Office’s appellate division, said the inequities of the current Three Strikes law are well known. Some defendants received 25-to-life sentences for minor infractions like possession of a single cocaine rock, or theft of food or diapers, Rubin said. Previous attempts to reform Three Strikes, including Proposition 66 in November 2004, have been too severe, Rubin said. Only 47 percent of voters favored Proposition 66, which Rubin said eliminated some serious and violent offenses from the list of possible strikes, and would have triggered “massive resentencing.” With the defeat of Proposition 66, it became clear to Cooley that meaningful reform was necessary to save Three Strikes as an important tool for prosecutors, Rubin said. The current proposal would require that the third strike be serious or violent, Rubin said. A relatively minor offense could still be classified as a third strike if it involved elements like large quantities of drugs, certain sex offenses or a defendant armed with a firearm, Rubin said. Robert Kalunian, chief deputy public defender for Los Angeles County, called the latest proposed change to the Three Strikes law “excellent.” “The current Three Strikes law is overly broad and basically has the capability of encompassing a whole lot of individuals that one wouldn’t think should be sentenced to 25-to-life in prison,” he said. The new proposal also requires that defendants who received 25-to-life sentences for minor third offenses be resentenced according to the new provisions. [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4461last_img read more