I remember when California passed its three strikes law, and I similarly remember my relief and gratitude when the Supreme Court upheld its application during test cases in which the third strike was for rather minor crimes. This was early in the last decade while I was still teaching in the Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles and believed quite strongly in the need for harsh punishment for criminals in most cases. I still believe there are many felons for whom laws like this one are appropriate; however, this is the first case I've become aware of in which the first two strikes were handed down for a burglary and attempted burglary committed while a young and drug addicted offender was 19 years old and the third was then imposed when he was found in possession of ten dollars worth of methamphetamine.
Until reading of this case, I had always assumed that strikes one and two had usually been required to include an element of violence either inflicted or strongly threatened; burglary would almost never meet this threshold. While cases like this one would not be typical of the sort that result in a third strike offender being sent to prison for life, it has opened my eyes to the facts of what this law-- a well intentioned and largely necessary one-- has also done with the lives of some troubled Californians.
I thank God the case highlighted here seems likely to be reviewed favorably and can only hope we will seek out others like it in which a similarly travesty has taken place.