In 1993, Washington became the first state to adopt a three-strikes-and-you’re-out law. Today, says the Seattle Times, the controversial law known as I-593, which covers more than 40 felonies labeled the “most dangerous offenses,” seems to have dropped from public consciousness. The Times took a look at how the law has operated and found that tere have been far fewer life sentences – 229 through December – than analysts expected; the law has lower-level offenders like nonviolent robbers the most; the law has had a trickle-down effect that has increased sentences for some crimes it does not cover.
By far the largest proportion of imprisoned three-strike lifers is not murderers nor rapists – the “worst of the worst” – but second-degree robbers. Second-degree assault is in second place. Many criminal defense lawyers consider these the lowest-level offenses covered under I-593. “There are some robberies that are brutal and are probably exactly what the average citizen thinks about as a robbery. There are others that are at the lower end of culpability,” said Mark Larson, a King County prosecutor. Defense lawyer Steven Witchley cites client Freddie Hampton, a crack addict who got a life sentence after three “note job” bank robberies in which he used neither violence nor weapons. “Mr. Hampton is serving the same sentence as Gary Ridgway,” Witchley said, referring to the Green River Killer, who killed at least 48 women. “That says it all.”