192 NEW LIFE TERMS FOR MARIJUANA POSSESSION IN CALIFORNIA ?
The New York TIMES for Friday 8 March carried a story [p.A8]
by Fox Butterfield titled 'Tough Law on Sentencing Is Criticized'
covering a fresh report by Vincent Schiraldi, the Director of the
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice in San Francisco.
In the last couple of years CA judges have sentenced 192
defendants for marijuana possession under the so-called 'Three
Strikes' statute vs. only 40 convicted of murder, 25 of rape and
24 of kidnapping.* Does this mean that California now has 192 new
prisoners doing life without parole for possession of MJ as their
'third strike'? Can some researcher answer this question for us?
That may be tougher than one might think at first blush.
On 3/1, trying to get the data for dope prisoners in San
Francisco, I called Sheriff Michael Hennessey's office and spoke
to Eileen Hunt, his chief of staff. She gave the S.F. jail
population on that date as 2,157 and 'estimate[d] that 30 to 50%
were in for drug or drug-related crimes', the latter category
meaning burglaries or robberies committed for the motive of buying
dope. She had no breakdown for MJ and was unable to provide a count
for the straight contraband [dope] charges, let alone distinguish
between possession & trafficking. "Pathetic as this sounds, it's
true," she said, blaming the S.F. cops' 1965 Wang computer system.
While an unknown number of poor & mainly colored men languish
behind bars, Bill Buckley, the ultimate right-wing Republican of
the Establishment variety, has declared war against the fraudulent
'War on Drugs' with a highly-publicized cover issue of his magazine
the NATIONAL REVIEW in February and 3 half-hour segments of his
t.v. show the FIRING LINE in the same month. Buckley has turned the
right flank of U.S. politics against the Neo-prohibitionists, who
are now left naked without even the merest shred of intellectual
defense. All they have going for them = the secret police, the
pill-pushers of the American Pharmaceutical Manufacturers'
Association who fund the so-called 'Partnership for a Drug-Free
America' and MEDUSA**, which last has begun to fracture on the
issue as witness for example HARPERS and the ATLANTIC MONTHLY
magazines. The phrase 'Freedom of Diet' means that every
responsible adult has the inalienable right to choose her own
vegetables. "$100KPY" refers to the fact that in justice & in law
the government owes reasonable compensation to all those whom it
has wrongfully imprisoned under the irrational, repressive, anti-
Constitutional dope statutes. How long will thinkers,
organizers & artists of all varieties take to lead the people of
the world to open the dungeon doors so that we can trade cruel
enslavement for the wise enjoyment of the fruits of Mother Nature's
peaceful garden? However quickly we manage it will still seem like
a very long time to hundreds of thousands of our brothers and their
I challenge the other candidates in the California
presidential primary to declare themselves on this issue.
Does Ralph Nader, to take one, believe that there be any
drugs, or what we commonly call 'drugs', that we should lock up
people for selling? The incumbent, whose hair turned white
when he sneezed in the mirror, is pictured in today's TIMES
posturing before schoolchildren whom the educrats & their shrinks
are dosing with Ritalin & other profitable para-amphetamines on
pretext of the kids' tendencies to tune out windbags. Baby-Burning
Billary or '3B' has already graphically demonstrated his attitude
toward our young with the aid of flame-throwing tanks***. That
scene surely deserves a ballad, as well as a trial.
In what year did Bob Dylan bring out 'The Lonesome Death of
* Blacks make up 7% of the CA population, 31% of prisoners and 43%
of those sentenced under '3 strikes'.
** = the obsolescent monopolistic propaganda MEDia of the of the
USA, a.k.a. 'mainstream news'.
*** See THE ASHES OF WACO by Dick Reavis, 1995.
-- Hal of Womack Enterprises | e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org | tel. 415/ 788 5701 Snail mail to: Hotel Europa, Rm. 209/ 310 Columbus Avenue/ San Francisco, CA 94133/ U.S.A. | Student of Diego Rivera, Ho Chi Minh, Paul Robeson, Naguib Mahfouz, Shusaku, Bertolt Brecht, Madonna & Sgt. York
Posted: Gabrielle Daniels <email@example.com>
On Thu, 7 Mar 1996, Bob Witanek wrote:
> Associate Press carried a squib on who is actually getting > sentenced under California's three-strikes law. According to a > Dept. of Corrections chart 192 people have received lengthy > sentences for marijuana possession, 40 for murder, 25 for rape and > 24 for kidnapping. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice > (Vincent Schiraldi, is that right?) has released an analysis of > this law prior to the second anniversary of the its enactment. >
Gil Garcetti, the D.A. of Los Angeles, is presently undergoing an investigation regarding his possible intervention in a case involving a young guy who would have been sentenced under the three strikes bill for committing a third crime.
The young guy's father made a substantial campaign contribution to Garcetti when he was running for the office of District Attorney in 1992. Many people believe that the father called in his you-owe- me to Garcetti in order to obtain a slap-on-the-wrist sentence--it might have been probation. The son is free on bail right now. The news has been blaring across the L.A. news waves for a week or so. I believe an investigation is underway.
On a related note: First Flee Bailey, now Gil Garcetti. Hmmmmm...
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Bob Gonsalves) Subject: Schiraldi vs. Wilson :: Facts vs. Rhetoric
NBC 3/8/96, derived from closed caption data. Bryant Gumble: On "Close Up" this morning -- the "Three Strikes Law" turns 2. California Governor Pete Wilson is calling the "Three Strikes Law," which puts all third-time offenders behind bars for 25 years to life, a huge success. But critics say 85% of those put in jail under the 2-year-old law were convicted of nonviolent crimes, including pot smoking and, in one case, the theft of a pizza. Governor Pete Wilson is in San Francisco this morning and Vincent Schiraldi, the Director for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice is in San Francisco. Good morning. Good morning, Bryant. BG: Governor, let me start with you. By what criteria are you viewing the 'three strikes and you're out' law as a huge success? Governor Pete Wilson: It is a success, because it's doing what it intended to do, it has dramatically reduced crime more than it is reduced in the rest of the nation. It is in particular aimed at reducing violent crime and serious crime, and it has done that. It is producing the reaction among the inmates that those who are paroled are leaving the state rather than staying in. Those who are paroled in other states who could come home to California are choosing not to. So if you ask police chief, crime victims' advocates, prosecutors, they will tell you it is, in fact, working, just as they hoped that it would. BG: What about the study that holds that roughly 85% of those sentenced under the law were convicted of nonviolent crimes? Was that the intent of the law? PW: Well, first of all, it isn't accurate. 60% plus of those who were the third and second strikers have committed either violent or serious crimes. BG: So you're saying that nonviolent criminals are not being incarcerated unnecessarily? PW: No. And you've got to remember something else, the whole purpose of this act is to aim -- is to target those who are repeat offenders. You don't get prosecuted under the three strikes law unless you have either committed a violent or a serious crime before, and in the case of the three strikers, it has to be at least two. But the pattern, of course, is that those tho have been convicted of two have probably committed a dozen. Those who are convicted of one, and really very much the same way, have committed several crimes. These are the repeat offenders. BG: Mr. Schiraldi, you've said the 'three strikes and you're out' law is a flawed concept. Why? Vincent Schiraldi: I think it really costs too much, does too little, and targets all the wrong people. I actually think the Governor kind of knew that initially. Several times three strikes proponents came to him and asked for his support for the law. He continually actually turned them down until it became very politically popular after the kidnapping of Polly Klaas at which point the Governor jumped on board. Most people who analyzed this law figured it would spend a lot of money to lock up a lot of people who shouldn't been in prison necessarily. BG: What about some of the numbers he cited, that violent crime is down, that repeat offenses are down, that those people with a history of offenses are leaving the state. What about that? VS: "The New York Times" did an article on it this morning and what they said is what I believe, which is that crime is down all throughout the United States, and in some cities down much more than it is in California. A good example is where you are in New York, crime fell further than it did in Los Angeles. Now, Los Angeles spent $400 million worth of taxpayers' money on 'three strikes and you're out'. We ought to see our crime rate dropping more than New York City, which doesn't have a three strikes law. As far as parolees moving out of the state, the exact same number of parolees have requested to move out of the state of California every year for the last five years, including the last two years three strikes has been in effect. The only thing that's happened is the Department of Corrections has granted more requests over the last two years. That may be a good thing, but has nothing to do with three strikes and you're out. The department could have granted those requests five years ago. BG: Governor, your critics are pointing out that at the same time when you're urging the building of more prisons, this comes at a home when California has the most crowded classrooms in the country and the highest juvenile crime unemployment rate, too, that you're addressing only the solution rather than the causes of crime. How do you respond to that? PW: Well, they're flatly wrong. California, I think, far more than most other states spends money and takes the time to try to prevent crime. But when you have too many absent fathers who have failed to prevent the brutalizing of their sons, then prevention means putting people who are dangerous repeat offenders behind bars. And Mr. Schiraldi is simply flat wrong. He's wrong on his history of my being persuaded to support it. I was a consistent supporter from the earliest point. And, in fact, it is working. And he's wrong about the number of people leaving the state. He's wrong about the people who are coming back in. And he's certainly wrong about the drop in the crime rate. We are seeing a drop in the crime rate in California that is double that or at least in the case of violent crime, half again greater than is the national average. VS: That's just simply not accurate. You know, you could look at "Newsweek" or "Time" magazine and you saw front-page headlines about the drops in crime in New York City, not about the drops in crime in Los Angeles. You know, look this stuff up in the books, folks, after the show is over. You'll see that my data are absolutely accurate. BG: Mr. Schiraldi, according to one report, African Americans, under this law, are being sentenced to prison at a rate 13 times that of whites, even though they represent only 20% of all felony arrests. Why such a higher percentage of blacks? Is that justice? VS: Oh, I think there's an over amount of discretion put in the hands of district attorneys under this law, and you know, I think the points -- the two points we've talked about really relate to each other. If all those guys were murderers, say, I don't care if they're black, white or green, it doesn't really matter. That's what we have prison for. But when you have petty thieves and pot smokers going to prison at such high rates under three strikes and you're out -- BG: The governor says that's not who's going to jail. VS: The governor's simply wrong. 85% of the people going to prison under this law are going for nonviolent offenses. We have 192 people, for example, just in for possession of marijuana, compared to 40 for murder, 25 for kidnapping, and 24 for rape. Now, if the governor wanted to say to us while we were voting for this law, look, I think we need to put pot smokers in prison for life because they've done bad stuff in the past, then that would have been at least a reasonable way to debate this law. But that's not what they did. BG: Gentlemen... VS: They sold this law on Richard Allen Davis. When we got into the store we had pot smokers. PW: It's not possession. It's possession for sale. BG: Gentlemen, I've got to step in. We'll have to continue the debate another time. Vincent Schiraldi, Governor Wilson, thank you both.
From: Thomas Dornheck <email@example.com> Subject: Judge: D.A. abuses "3 strikes"
JUDGE CRITICIZES D.A. FOR ABUSING THREE STRIKES LAW
LOS ANGELES, March 8 (AP) -- Moments after jurors acquitted a homeless man of possessing a minute amount of cocaine, a judge castigated District Attorney Gil Garcetti for seeking a "three strikes" conviction in the case. "This case, in the court's opinion, constitutes a gross abuse of prosecutorial discretion," Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe told jurors who returned the innocent verdict after an hour of deliberation. Defendant Michael Newhouse faced life in prison if convicted.
"This case constituted a refusal by the district attorney to exercise the discretion that is vested in him by law and is part of his job," Yaffe said after Monday's jury decision. "If he refused to exercise that discretion ... because he is afraid of the public reaction, then he's a craven coward who is afraid to do his sworn duty," the judge said. "If he refused to exercise his discretion because he's trying to demonstrate that the `three strikes' law does not work, then he is an arrogant bureaucrat who is trying to make fools of the 70% of Californians who voted for that law."
Telephone calls seeking Garcetti's reaction to the judge's remarks were referred to his chief deputy. Garcetti is seeking re-election in the March 26 election. "Frankly, I understand his frustration," chief deputy Sandy Buttitta said. "What I would disagree with, however, is when he talks about the discretion we do or do not have."
Los Angeles prosecutors, like most of the state's district attorneys, file charges against all repeat felony offenders under the three-strikes law with plea bargains considered in some cases, Buttitta said. In the Newhouse case, the defendant was offered a deal that would have meant a six-year prison term, but he refused it, Buttitta said.
Yaffe's comments came 2 days before some deputy district attorneys moved to ask the state Attorney General to investigate Garcetti's handling of another "three strikes" case. In that case, prosecutors reduced charges against the grandson of one of Garcetti's campaign contributors, allowing the man to escape prosecution under the "three strikes" law.
Yaffe, however, said he's seen Garcetti's office apply the tough sentencing law even to defendants charged with relatively minor felonies, coming years after the first two convictions. "The evidence in (the cocaine) case," Yaffe said, "was so weak that to prosecute it at all was questionable. To make it a case involving life imprisonment was grotesque."
Newhouse earned his first 2 felony convictions when he pleaded guilty in 1986 to 2 residential burglaries filed under one case, according to his court-appointed attorney, Victor Salerno. Newhouse served 3 years in prison at that time, Salerno said. _________________________________________________________________ ________ (c) Associated Press [CA wire], March 8, 1996