In 1996, when the Sacramento Bee investigated 233 perpetrators of three strikes in California, it found that they had a total of 1,165 previous convictions, an average of 5 each. See Furillo, Three Strikes-The Verdict: Most Offenders Have Long Criminal Histories, Sacramento Bee, March 31, 1996, p. al. Previous convictions included 322 robberies and 262 burglaries. Approximately 84 per cent of the 233 perpetrators had been convicted of at least one violent crime. Ibid. In total, they were responsible for 17 homicides, 7 attempted homicides and 91 sexual assaults and child abuses. Ibid. Sacramento Bee concluded, based on its investigation, that “in the vast majority of cases, regardless of the third strike, the law [three warnings] traps [the] habitual offenders in the long term with multiple convictions for crimes.” When we assess the seriousness of Ewing`s offenses, we must balance not only his current crime, but also his long history of criminal recidivism.
Any other approach would not respect the political judgments expressed in the choice of sanctions by the legislator. When imposing a three-shot sentence, the interest of the state is not only to punish the crime of conviction or the “triggering” crime: “It is also the interest. by treating more severely those who, through repeated criminal acts, have shown that they are simply incapable of conforming to the norms of society as defined by their criminal law. Rummel, 445 U.S., at 276; Solem, above, at 296. In order to give full effect to the State`s choice of that legitimate criminal law objective, our review of proportionality in Ewing must take that objective into account. In 1994, California enacted the toughest law of the nation`s “three strikes.” Under this law, any crime can serve as a third strike, and a conviction for a third strike requires a mandatory 25-year prison sentence to life in prison. In Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11 (2003), the Supreme Court ruled that sending a drug addict who had stolen three golf clubs in jail for 25 years for life under the Three Strike Act did not violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment. The next chapter of criminal law stories tells the story of the Ewing case and describes the life of Gary Ewing, the crime that became his third blow and every step of his case.
It describes all the actors and brings to life the hearing and the opinion of the Supreme Court. This chapter also explores three questions: First, why did California law impose such a draconian sentence for such a minor offense? The chapter tells the story of the voters` initiative that enacted the laws on the three strikes, the unsuccessful efforts to change the law, and it describes how the law was enforced by California County`s elected prosecutors and interpreted by its courts. Second, why was such a punishment not prohibited by the cruel and unusual punishment clause? The chapter provides an overview of previous Supreme Court Eighth Amendment cases and analyzes the majority and dissenting opinions in the Ewing case. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the limits, if any, that the Eighth Amendment imposes on state authority to replace policies based on rehabilitation, retribution, and individualized condemnation with policies aimed at protecting society by neutralizing relapses. The 8th Amendment prohibits the federal government from imposing incredibly high bails, cruel and unusual punishment, including torture and excessive fines. While there are penalties for certain crimes that would be considered cruel and unusual, this is not necessarily the case in cases of the three-shot rule. California`s current Three Strikes Act consists of two virtually identical laws “aimed at increasing prison sentences for repeat offenders.” People v. Superior Court of San Diego Cty.
ex rel. Romero, 13 Cal. 4th 497, 504, 917 pp. 2d 628, 630 (1996) (Romero). If a defendant is convicted of a crime and has already been convicted of one or more previous crimes defined as “serious” or “violent” in sections 667.5 and 1192.7 (West Supp. 2002), the trial judge decided that major theft should remain a crime. The court also ruled that the previous four strikes for the three burglaries and robberies in Long Beach should remain. A newly convicted criminal with two or more “serious” or “violent” convictions in his past, Ewing was sentenced to 25 years in prison for life under the Three Strikes Act.
I do not find any particular criminal concerns that would justify this judgment. The most obvious possible justification for bringing Ewing`s flight within the scope of the law is administrative in nature. California needs to draw a viable line between behavior that triggers a “three strikes” sentence and behavior that doesn`t trigger a “three strikes” sentence. “But the fact that a line must be drawn somewhere does not justify it being drawn somewhere.” Pearce v Commissioner, 315 U. S. 543, 558 (1942) (Frankfurter, J., different). The administrative objective of the law appears to be to separate more serious criminal behaviour from less serious behaviour, triggering criminal behaviour. But the law does not do that job very well. So three shots you are out!! Don`t go to jail, don`t collect $200. As for the other jurisdictions, we know this: the United States, bound by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, would impose on a repeat offender like Ewing a sentence that would not exceed 18 months in prison in all normal cases. USSG § 2B1.1(a) (Nov. 1999) (assuming a baseline offence level of 6, a criminal history of VI and no mitigating or aggravating adjustments); Art.-No., Chap.
5, Pt. A, Sentencing Table. The guidelines, based in part on a study of approximately 40,000 actual federal sentences, see paragraphs 37 and 41 above, reserve a sentence similar to Ewing`s for repeat Ewing-type offenders who are currently committing crimes such as murder, § 2A1.2; Aerial piracy, § 2A5.1; robbery (involving the unloading of a firearm, aggravated assault and approximately $1 million), § 2B3.1; Drug-related offences with more than 20 pounds of heroin, for example, § 2D1.1; aggravated theft of more than $100 million, § 2B1.1; and other similar offences. The guidelines reserve 10 years of actual imprisonment (with time) – less than 40 per cent of Ewing`s sentence – for repeat Ewing-type offenders who commit intentional manslaughter, for example, § 2A1.3; serious bodily injury with a firearm (grievous bodily injury and determination of money), § 2A2.2; Abduction, § 2A4.1; Residential burglary over $5 million, § 2B2.1; drug-related offences involving at least one pound of cocaine, § 2D1.1; and other similar offences. Ewing was also not subject to the federal “Three Strikes” law, 18 U.S. v. § 3559 (c), for which Grand Theft is not a triggering offense. As for California itself, we know this: First, no one like Ewing could have spent more than 10 years in prison between the end of World War II and 1994 (when California enacted the Three Strikes Act at the age of 15).
We know for sure because the maximum sentence for Ewing`s crime, aggravated robbery, was 10 years for most of that period. Cal. Strafgesetzbuch Ann. §§ 484, 489 (West 1970); see Cal. Dept. of Corrections, Offender Information Services, Administrative Services Division, Historical Data for Time Served by Male Felons Paroled from Institutions: 1945 To 1981, p.