15 August 2006

More California Three Strikes Injustice.

In this habeas case we review whether it was an unreasonable application of federal constitutional law for a California state court to decide that a "three strikes" sentence of 25 years to life for possessing 0.036 grams of cocaine did not violate the Eighth Amendment.


At the time the defendant went to trial his prior felony convictions were 12 and 18 years old, respectively.

The 9th Circuit upheld the sentence.

The amount of cocaine involved, 0.036 grams, is equivalent to 0.18 carats. The diamond in the average engagement ring is twice a large as the amount of cocaine at issue in this case. It was a small rock. Possession of a small amount of cocaine consistent with personal use and a prior criminal record is enough to put you away for life in the United States.

The result isn't terribly surprising. Challenges to exceedingly long terms for people with prior criminal records for petty offenses are routinely upheld. But, this doesn't make the laws involved any more sensible.

Hat Tip to Sentencing Law and Policy Blog.

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