- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

SAN DIEGO (AP) - A California appeals court panel decision Tuesday provides some clarity on resentencing rules for three-strikes inmates serving life in prison for armed offenses.

Three judges in the 4th appellate district ruled that three-strikers serving life for firearms possession cannot ask for shorter prison terms under Proposition 36, the 2012 initiative that softened the state’s tough sentencing law, the Los Angeles Times reported (https://lat.ms/1gqmk0A).

California judges have been handing down conflicting decisions in such cases.

Proposition 36 allowed most inmates serving life terms for relatively minor third strikes to ask courts for shorter terms. The measure excluded inmates who carried a firearm or deadly weapon during the commission of their last crime.

Lawyers representing inmates with gun-possession third strikes argued that courts should accept their resentencing requests and reduce terms for those who do not pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.

The judges concluded that third-strikers are disqualified from seeking shorter sentences if they were armed but left open the door for prisoners who did not have ready access to a gun at the time they were legally in possession of a firearm, the Times said. Keeping a firearm in storage, for example, or giving a gun to a friend for safekeeping can be considered weapon possession.

In deciding the issue, the panel rejected an appeal by Mark Anthony White, who was convicted of possessing a firearm in San Diego County. The judges concluded that there was ample evidence he had been armed. El Cajon police said they saw him throw an object into his truck as he ran from officers in 1995. Officers said they recovered a loaded .357 revolver from the vehicle. White’s previous convictions included three strikes: robbery, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.

White’s attorney, Richard Jay Moller, said he will ask the panel to reconsider its opinion and is prepared to ask the state Supreme Court to review the case.

In Los Angeles, Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan, who is handling all of the county’s resentencing requests, told the Times he has been awaiting a decision in White’s case to help him decide how to handle resentencing requests from about 120 prisoners whose third strikes involved firearms possession.

Ryan said he is still waiting for an appeals court to decide at least one Los Angeles case to help resolve the legal disputes over the issue.


Information from: Los Angeles Times, https://www.latimes.com

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