California’s Three Strikes law contains sentencing requirements that add time to one’s sentence if the individual has a prior conviction for a “strike offense.” “Strike offenses” are generally described as serious or violent felonies, such as murder, rape, armed robbery and arson, but can include other offenses that seem, by comparison, not too serious or violent. This often results in sentences one court described as “arbitrary, capricious and patently absurd.”
Perhaps epitomizing such a problem with the Three Strike law is the case of Dewone T. Smith, who was sentenced to 150 years to life for what was certainly far, far from murder, rape or armed robbery. Mr. Smith challenged his sentence, imposed by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, in appealing to the Second Appellate District. In a recently published opinion, the Appellate Court overturned the sentence (2012 DJDAR 2530).
The sentence was imposed by Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Jose Sandoval in the Clara Shortridge Foltz downtown courthouse after a jury found Smith guilty of custodial possession of a weapon (Penal Code § 4502(a)), resisting a police officer (Penal Code § 69) and three counts of battery by gassing (Penal Code § 243.9), while Smith was in county jail. The weapon was a pencil taped to two spoons. It was not used on anyone. The resisting arrest arose out of Smith punching an officer when arrested. The battery by gassing related to two incidents wherein Smith tossed a mixture of feces and urine in a bowl at officers.
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