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Third Strike

November 28, 1994

I am a lawyer and public defender in Los Angeles. Today, one of my clients (whom I'm sure was innocent) was convicted of a non-serious, nonviolent felony. My 30-year-old client, a very proud man, began to sob uncontrollably as the court clerk read the verdict. He cried not just because he was innocent, but because he knew that he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

My client has two prior robbery convictions. This was his third strike. He now faces a sentence longer than that meted out to premeditated murderers. This is so even though he was employed full-time and supports a loving wife and four children (with one on the way). His children will now grow up fatherless, without the guiding hand of someone who clearly now knows the difference between right and wrong.

He has redeemed himself. He is now much different than what he was in the early 1980s when he sustained his "strikes." However, to the mostly white, conservative electorate, he is a scourge. He is no longer human. He is referred to as "scum," "garbage," or "menace to society."

I know him. I know he is human. He is now a kind, caring person. But the three-strikes law doesn't factor such traits into its deadly equation. He will enjoy no freedom until his last breath.

JEROME J. HAIG

Redondo Beach

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