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The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to review an appellate court ruling that says state district attorneys must follow a 28-year-old law that requires prosecutors to add “strikes” based on a defendant’s past convictions that would lengthen their sentences, according to a report.
Progressive Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón asked the court last month to review the appellate court’s decision that said he had overstated his authority in telling prosecutors to not prosecute strikes and other sentence enhancements.
“The district attorney overstates his authority,” the Second Appellate District ruling reads. “He is an elected official who must comply with the law, not a sovereign with absolute, unreviewable discretion.”
The California “Three Strikes” law was approved by voters in 1994 and imposes a 25-years to life sentence for a third strike and doubles the sentence for a second strike. Strikes are added for violent or other serious felonies.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón addresses police accountability and the actions taken by his office to restore trust in the community during a press conference on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Los Angeles.
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
The three-strikes law “has caused tremendous harm to our communities,” Gascón said Wednesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “We believe we can have accountability without the harshest of punishments.”
In June, an appeals court upheld the lower court’s injunction that said Gascón cannot refuse to charge three strikes cases.
The Second Appellate District Court ruled that voters and the California Legislature “created a duty, enforceable in mandamus” that requires prosecutors to plead prior serious or violent felony convictions under the state’s three strikes law.
The appellate court said the law “shall be applied in every case,” but said prosecutors can argue for a lesser sentence.
Gascón called the appellate court’s decision “a dangerous precedent” and argued that it amounted to “taking the charging decision out of a prosecutor’s hands.”
“The Three Strikes law imposes Draconian penalties on defendants who were previously convicted of certain prior felonies,” he said. He also claimed that long sentences “increase recidivism rates, have little-to-no deterrent effect and keep people in prison long after they pose any safety risk to their community.”
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin was recalled in June.
Gascón’s critics argue that repeat felonious offenders should be kept in prison longer because they may be dangerous to society.
After Gascón took office in December 2020, he implemented a series of directives to unilaterally reform how cases are prosecuted, including barring the prosecuting of strikes.
Gascón was joined in his July filing asking the high court to overturn the ruling by 73 current and former prosecutors, including Chesa Boudin, who was recalled as San Francisco’s progressive DA earlier this summer.
Gascón has also survived two unsuccessful attempts to have him recalled.
The appellate ruling will not be “binding precedent” while the high court is reviewing the case.
Facade of the Supreme Court of California, in the Civic Center neighborhood of San Francisco, California, October 2, 2016.
(Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Eric Siddall, the vice president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, a group of prosecutors in Gascón’s office who brought the original lawsuit against his policies, responded to Gascón’s filing, saying, “prosecutors should be asking courts to follow the law, not ideology. Gascón’s position is not rooted in the law, but it’s grounded in an authoritarian ideology that is inconsistent with our constitutional system.”
Critics of Gascón’s liberal policies have also said that he favors criminals over victims. For example, his policies allowed a 26-year-old child molester to get less than 6 months in a juvenile facility. He also secured a five- to seven-month sentence in “juvenile probation camp” for a wrong-way hit-and-run driver who mowed down a mom and her infant son on a Venice Beach side street.
Fox News’ Michael Ruiz contributed to this report.