An effort to limit California’s controversial three-strikes law to violent offenders has been started by Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor and a prominent criminal-defense lawyer, says the Los Angeles Times. District Attorney Steve Cooley and Brian Dunn, a member of the late Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.’s law firm, jointly filed a proposed initiative called the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2006. A signature drive to get the measure on the November ballot could start soon. The measure would revise the 1994 three-strikes law, which provides for prison sentences of 25 years to life for a felony conviction if the person has two prior violent or serious offenses, or “strikes.” Any felony can serve as a third strike. Under the initiative, the third conviction would have to be for a violent or serious offense, except in cases in which the offender had previously committed murder, rape, or child molestation.
Prosecutors are concerned that public opposition to the perceived harshness of three strikes might ultimately trigger a political backlash. “Our slogan is fix it or lose it,” Cooley said. The proposal is the second in two years to put revisions to the three-strikes law before voters. Voters in November 2004 narrowly rejected Proposition 66, which would have broadly limited the law and redefined some of the crimes considered strikes. That measure, opposed by prosecutors and law-enforcement interests, would have made thousands of inmates eligible for resentencing. Cooley and Dunn hope that their initiative, less drastic than Proposition 66, will draw broader support.