Court Vacates 150 Year Sentence by Dismissing 3 Strikes
Perhaps epitomizing such a problem with the Three Strike law is the case of Dewone T. Smith, who was sentenced to 150 years to life for what was certainly far, far from murder, rape or armed robbery. Mr. Smith challenged his sentence, imposed by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, in appealing to the Second Appellate District. In a recently published opinion, the Appellate Court overturned the sentence (2012 DJDAR 2530).Brief Synopsis: Appellate court reverses a trial court judge who denied a Romero motion to strike three prior strikes. The appellate court’s ruling caused a 150 year sentence to be vacated.
At trial, Smith’s counsel asked the judge to vacate three of his prior strikes for purposes of sentencing, as is possible under Penal Code § 1385 and People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497. Smith’s counsel asked the judge to reduce the sentence by “striking the strikes,” in light of Smith’s mental illness, the error by Los Angeles County in placing Smith in county jail and not prison, the effect of having a mentally ill person housed at county jail, and the relatively minor nature of the commitment offenses (criminal threats and a battery by gassing on a police officer related to a prior offense).
The appellate court agreed that the outright denial of the motion to strike the strikes was made in error. It consequently vacated the 150 years to life sentence, however, it did not specifically agree with Smith’s arguments on appeal. It only held that the case should be sent back to the downtown Los Angeles Court for further proceedings as to sentencing, with instructions that the trial judge give weight to Smith’s mental illness and the relatively minor nature of the commitment offenses (possession of the weapon, resisting arrest and battery by gassing on a police officer).
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