Steve Ipsen “Fair and For the People” – Three strikes ballot measure faces public safety politics

Three Strikes Reform Initiative of 2012
ABC covers the Three Strikes Reform Initiative of 2012 that will be presented to the voters of California

Three Strikes and You’re Out
A new “Three Strikes Reform” initiative was filed with the California Attorney General’s office last month.  It has been reported that Steve Cooley is being recruited to back this initiative and Ace Smith (Kamala Harris’s campaign manager) will head up the campaign.  We predict this is a political stunt for Steve Cooley to re-enter the District Attorney’s race in 2012, despite his announcements he will not run.  It is odd that Ace Smith would work so closely with Steve Cooley afer he criticized Cooley’s Attorney General campaign with such vehemence.  We predict Cooley is getting cozy with the reformers so he can use this platform to get into the DAs race for 2012 and say he is going to save the prison overcrowding crisis, when in fact the prison overcrowding crisis is one in which Steve Cooley and his faulty policies created.   

Victims remember that Steve Cooley was one of the last people to oppose Prop 66 in 2004.  Both Republicans and Democrats opposed Proposition 66 including former Governors Arnold Schwarzenneger,  Jerry Brown, Pete Wilson, Gray Davis and George Deukmejian.  The four page article  the below author refers to is one Steve Ipsen wrote and mentions some of the criminals that would have benefited by Prop 66.  Charles Manson was featured highlighting his 14 “Strikes” that would have been reduced from 14 to one.  A man who raped his own mother was pictured on the front page along with a man who poured gasoline on his own son and lit him on fire.  It is wise for the legislative writers at Stanford to take into account the problems with Proposition 66, when considering their new law, because victims are watching very closely.   Steve Ipsen has been a strong victim’s advocate and is proposing criminal justice reform for low-level and nonviolent offenders.  At least “Reform First” is proposed by someone victims can trust to look out for them and he is a  “Fair and For the People” prosecutor.  Compared to the natorius Alan Jackson who recently violated Marsy’s Law, then refused to apoligize to the victims after he failed to notify the victims, when he reduced a capital murder case to manslaughter, giving the murderer six years instead of the death penalty.  In reflection, it was only a matter of time before a new “Three-Strikes” law would  again appear before the voters of California.  “Three-Strikes” was written after the brutal murder of Kimber Reynolds.  Her father Mike Reynolds changed the history of California criminal law, aimed at protecting society from other victims.  Also worth remembering is the blistering attack video and add Kamala Harris launched against Steve Cooley in the race for Attorney General of California where Steve Cooley lost overwhelmingly in LA County by over 65% of the vote.  When refering to Jessica’s Law, Steve Cooley was recorded saying that if you want to write a law in California “name it after a female”.  Unbecoming of an elected official if you ask victims.  Mike Reynolds reports disappointment in Steve Cooley in the way he prosecutes “Three Strikes” cases.  Recently, and infamously,  John Ewell was the beneficiary of Steve Cooley and Jackie Lacey’s failure to follow “Three Strikes”.  Ewell later murdered four people.

Insider News portrayed some of the most henius crimes and the perpetrators who would have benefited if Prop 66 would have passed.

By Ryan Gabrielson (California Watch)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KABC) — A pair of Stanford University law professors spent months this year writing ballot language to narrow, ever so slightly, California’s three strikes sentencing law.

The result is the “Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012,” which is now under legal review by the state attorney general’s office. It aims to remove courts’ authority to sentence convicts to 25 years to life in prison when their crimes have been neither violent nor serious.

At the same time, the initiative’s backers argue this measure will ensure dangerous criminals remain incarcerated.

By protecting one piece of the three strikes law (life sentences for violent offenders), the proponents hope California voters will agree to discard another piece (life sentences for minor crimes).

That transaction shows the initiative’s political vulnerability, said Arnold Steinberg, a Republican political strategist. “Their challenge at the margins is to prevent their effort from being seen as soft on crime,” he said.

Past efforts to change the three strikes law have failed that challenge. California’s law, enacted by voters in 1993, is the only law in the United States that allows convicts to receive a third strike for any new crime, including petty theft.

The initiative’s supporters intend to focus on the cost of long prison terms for minor crimes, said Dan Newman, a spokesman for the effort. Felons previously convicted of murder, rape and child molestation could continue to receive a third strike for any conviction.

“Frankly, it’s built to win,” Newman said. “It’s built so it restores what voters wanted when they voted for three strikes in the first place. And it does so in a way that allows us to put together a broad coalition of supporters.”

That coalition is still under construction, Newman said.

Supporters expect to begin collecting signatures next month to secure a spot on the November 2012 ballot.

Steinberg said the list of supporters has to include conservatives and law enforcement to convince voters that the measure won’t risk public safety.

“It cannot look like liberals from central casting,” he said.

In 2004, Proposition 66, a ballot measure that would have dramatically changed three strikes, was defeated after California prosecutors made a late media blitz characterizing it as a mass release of dangerous criminals. Numerous top state officials lined up against the measure, including former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Prop. 66 would have required that a third “strike” be a serious or violent crime and reduced the number of offenses deemed serious under state law.

Pre-election polls showed Prop. 66 was likely to pass before opponents claimed the measure could result in the release of 26,000 felons. Steve Ipsen, head of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, produced a four-page flier that listed 10 violent convicts who Ipsen contended would be “eligible for release” under the proposition.

The lineup included a man who had “cut dog’s head off,” the flier states.

The Stanford professors, David Mills and Michael Romano, kept that political attack in mind as they drafted the current initiative.

“Those criminals who committed heinous acts are singled out in the reform language to ensure they receive no benefit whatsoever,” Newman said.

Romano leads the Stanford Three Strikes Project, where law students work to reduce life sentences for convicts who received their strikes for minor offenses, like shoplifting or drug possession.

Ipsen, a prosecutor for the Los Angeles district attorney’s office, said he agrees that three strikes has resulted in some outsized prison sentences. However, he opposes altering the law, as it means reducing prosecutors’ discretion in how they charge their cases.

“It would be very unfortunate if that happened because I think discretion can be used properly,” Ipsen said. “It has been getting better.”

The law would not change for convicts receiving a second strike if voters approve the initiative.

There are more than 32,000 inmates with two strikes presently serving time in state prison, compared with about 8,800 with three strikes, according to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation data. So-called “second-strikers” have their sentences doubled under the law.

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