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View Full Version : Three Time Loser Law - Explain?


Jinx
01-20-2000, 11:27 AM
I understand Texas has a three-time loser law. How does this work, and why don't other states adopt this law?

Erik Raven
01-20-2000, 11:39 AM
California has one, too. I don't know how the case ended up, but a few years back a guy with two strikes stole a piece of pizza from a kid, got nicked and faced a life sentence.

That's justice.

AWB
01-20-2000, 11:43 AM
I think several states have. IIRC, some of those have been challenged as to their constitutionality.

Basically, if you're convicted of 3 felonies (not sure if it's any or three of the same class), a minimum manditory sentence is imposed, anywhere from 25 years to life, even if the offence itself would only merit a few years by itself.

Knowledge of previous convictions is usually kept from juries, which is what defense attornies usually want. However, with the three-time loser law, if a defendant has two priors, they tend to want the juries to know this. This is so any soft-hearted person on the jury might vote not guilty because they don't feel right sending someone to prison for life for possessing 1/4 lb of Mary Jane.

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Judges 14:9 - So [Samson] scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion.

Arnold Winkelried
01-20-2000, 11:45 AM
In California, many people convicted of non-violent offenses such as petty theft, receiving stolen property, or possession of narcotics have been sentenced to 25 years in prison because it was their third offense and the judge has no discretion in sentencing.

You can read about some of the issues with the "3 strikes law" at this site (which advocates reform of the law.)

Families to Amend California's 3-Strikes (http://www.facts1.com/)

RTA
01-20-2000, 11:56 AM
The first "3 strikes and you're out" law was enacted in California, if I remember correctly, and was inspired by the kidnap and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klass by Richard Allen Davis, a chronic felon who had lived his life in and out of jail. (He now lives on death row at San Quentin.)
That case (8 years ago or so) prompted much dialogue about why people who keep repeating violent crimes continue to be let out of jail when their sentences expire.

voltaire
01-20-2000, 01:11 PM
What kind of moron steals pizza from somebody when they have two strikes against
them?

Probably a mentally-ill, hungry, homeless guy.

Well, you asked.

AvenueB-dude
01-20-2000, 01:17 PM
Originally posted by AWB:
I think several states have. IIRC, some of those have been challenged as to their constitutionality.

Basically, if you're convicted of 3 felonies (not sure if it's any or three of the same class), a minimum manditory sentence is imposed, anywhere from 25 years to life, even if the offence itself would only merit a few years by itself.

Knowledge of previous convictions is usually kept from juries, which is what defense attornies usually want. However, with the three-time loser law, if a defendant has two priors, they tend to want the juries to know this. This is so any soft-hearted person on the jury might vote not guilty because they don't feel right sending someone to prison for life for possessing 1/4 lb of Mary Jane.



Why don't the juries get to hear about previous convictions?

Cooper
01-20-2000, 01:32 PM
This pizza stealing has all the earmarks of Urban Legend.

Stealing a piece of pizza is not a felony, so I don't think any three strike laws would apply to it. I doubt most DAs would even prosecute for something so trivial, or that a police officer would even write a report.

Drain Bead
01-20-2000, 01:38 PM
I've heard the story too, Coop, and always thought it was somewhat bogus. Perhaps it was an armed robbery of some sort?

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"Buffalo Bills? Oh, yeah. The guys that always snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." --WallyM7

Bricker
01-20-2000, 01:39 PM
Why don't juries get to hear about previous convictions?

Because the jury might draw the impermissible inference that because he comitted a past crime, he must be guilty of the current crime.

Juries are permitted to hear only relevant evidence.

Relevant evidence is any evidence which tends to prove or disprove a material fact.

If a guy is accused of arson, there is no relevance in the knowledge that he once was convicted of writing bad checks.

However, there are some exceptions. n general, a felony conviction is presumed to be relevant to the issue of truthfulness. So if the accused arsonist testifies in his own defense, he may be "impeached" by his prior felony conviction. The jury will be instructed that they should consider the prior conviction only to judge his credibility, not to judge his guilt.

A bigger exception is what's called 404(b) evidence in federal practice - the admission of other bad acts is prohibited unless it goes to show a common plan, scheme, or motive. For example, if a guy was previously convicted of arson in which he poured gas into a barn and set it ablaze, served three years, convicted again of arson for pouring gas into a tool shed and setting it on fire... those convictions would probably be admissible against him in his current trial for pouring gas into a grain silo and setting it on fire.

There is a raging denate on about just how similar the prior bad acts have to be. In each case, it's up to the trial court judge's discretion. Does the probative value (how much the evidence really proves) outweigh the prejudicial value (how likely is it that the jurors will just think he's a bad guy, and convict him for being a bad huy, instead of weighing the real evidence)?

- Rick

torq
01-20-2000, 01:43 PM
Defense attorneys generally don't want jurors to know about prior convictions for fear that it will prejudice them against his client: "Oh, he's a known criminal. He probably committed this crime, too. Once a crook, always a crook."

ZenBeam
01-20-2000, 02:07 PM
When I lived in California, the case I always heard of, both in papers and on TV news, was the guy who had two strikes, and "Stole a bicycle" and so was going to be sent away for life for stealing a bicycle. Only one time did I hear the full story, that he put the stolen bicycle into the back of the stolen pickup truck. Doesn't sound as outrageous.

IIRC, in CA, the first two felonies have to be violent felonies, but the third could be anything. I would have preferred the Judge have some discretion if the current felony were non-violent.

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It is too clear, and so it is hard to see.

BobT
01-20-2000, 02:19 PM
Sadly, the pizza thief story is not a UL.

In March of 1995, Jerry Dewayne Williams, stole a pizza slice from four kids (I hope it was a big slice) at the Redondo Beach, CA pier. Williams had been arrested 13 times before and had five felony convictions. He was originally sentenced to 25 years to life, but in 1997, the sentencing judge reduced his term to around four years after he was given discretion to adjust sentences.

BobT
01-20-2000, 02:25 PM
Sadly, the pizza thief story is not a UL.

In March of 1995, Jerry Dewayne Williams, stole a pizza slice from four kids (I hope it was a big slice) at the Redondo Beach, CA pier. Williams had been arrested 13 times before and had five felony convictions. He was originally sentenced to 25 years to life, but in 1997, the sentencing judge reduced his term to around four years after he was given discretion to adjust sentences.

BobT
01-20-2000, 02:26 PM
Sorry about the double posting, but my computer did it. If it does it twice more, it gets 25 to life.

DSYoungEsq
01-20-2000, 03:44 PM
And here I always thought double posts got you extra bonus miles... ;)

BobT
01-21-2000, 12:10 AM
I was under the impression that California's "Three Strikes" law was modeled after an Oregon or Washington law.

In California, district attorneys have the discretion to ignore a previous "strike" in "the interests of justice."

In Los Angeles County, the DA rarely does that.

Glitch
01-21-2000, 12:10 AM
California has one, too. I don't know how the case ended up, but a few years back a guy with two strikes stole a piece of pizza from a kid, got nicked and faced a life sentence.

That's justice.

What kind of moron steals pizza from somebody when they have two strikes against them?

Probably, at some point, somebody told him about the "3 strikes" law (like a parole officer). An honest and reformed person would make every effort not to commit another felony. Clearly, this idiot is neither honest nor reformed (he did steal the pizza right?).

It seems pretty just to me that the law was applied to him.

MadPoet
01-21-2000, 12:51 AM
Remember folks, if a law sounds good, it must be good law!

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