Wednesday, December 12, 2012

California inmate benefits from three strikes vote

Tyrone W. Miles, in a California prisonl for 25 years, alleged he received inadequate legal counsel when he cut the deal with state prosecutors in 2005 for using a bogus $474 check in a convenience store in a central-California town.

As a result, the 42-year-old Navy veteran said he lost out on a plea bargain that would have given him a six-year sentence instead of the 25 years to life he received when he later did plead guilty under California's so-called "three strikes" law for repeat offenders, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The attorney allegedly counseled Mr. Miles to reject the six-year deal without checking to see that his client faced possible life imprisonment under the three-strikes law.

According to the WSJ, the Ninth Circuit granted Miles a hearing in September. Last week, the prosecution and defense filed a joint petition with the appellate court to issue an order directing that Mr. Miles be freed in the near future.

The Ninth Circuit's decision cited two Supreme Court decisions from this past March, Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper, in which the high court found defendants in two other cases hadn't been adequately represented by their attorneys during the plea-bargain process.

Plea bargains "have become so central to the administration of the criminal justice system" that defendants should receive the kind of protections associated with going to trial, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

Nearly 40 years ago, a similar case had a very different result. In Borderkircher v. Hayes, a Kentucky man passed an $83.30 bad check.  He had two prior felonies.  He was offered a five year sentence.  He declined and was later charged as a habitual offender and faced life in prison.  He claimed prosecutorial vindictiveness. The Supreme Court found nothing wrong with a prosecutor who thought five years was an appropriate sentence but sought life in prison as a means to coerce a plea.

What has changed?
The November election in California.  Voters, by ballot referendum, agreed to modify the state's three-strikes law. Under the modifications to California's three-strikes law, inmates such as Miles, whose third strike was a nonviolent, relatively non-serious crime, can be eligible for resentencing. State officials say that about 2,800 of the current 8,800 three-strike inmates could qualify, reported the WSJ.

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1 comment:

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