Ewing Versus California
In 1994, the voters and legislators of California approved a significant change in the State’s criminal sentencing law known as the Three Strikes Law (Cleave, 2018). This law required that a minimum sentence of twenty-five years to life imprisonment be imposed on three-time recidivists with numerous prior violent or serious felony convictions. This law was passed after many ex-felons had committed several murders, and this raised concerns that some offenders were being released from incarceration only to commit more serious crimes.
Proposition 36 was meant to modify the Three Strikes law to mitigate the punishment imposed on the offender’s conviction that the third felony is neither serious nor violent (Lee, 2005). Also, Proposition 36 created procedures that governed inmates who were convicted under the Three Strikes Law whose last crime was never violent or severe, enabling them to petition for another sentence according to the new sentencing provisions of Proposition 36.
The People vs. David Valencia– Closing gaps in the application of the three strikes law
The criminal record of David Valencia from 1995 includes a conviction for kidnapping, resisting arrest by violence or threat, making criminal threats, driving when drunk, and many other misdemeanor convictions (Cleave, 2018). In the year 2009, he was again convicted of corporal injury to a cohabitant, and this offense led to the sentencing of twenty-five years to life since it qualified as a third strike offense. In the year 2013, after Proposition 36 was enacted, Valencia decided to petition for resentencing by arguing that the third strike was neither severe nor violent, it was among those felonies excluded from reforms of sentencing, and he did not suffer a conviction for the super strike. However, The People opposed resentencing, citing that Valencia posed an unreasonable danger risk to the public’s safety according to his criminal history. In August 2013, Valencia’s petition was denied by the sentencing court. In his appeal, Valencia’s argument, he stated that the Three Strikes Law was amended by Proposition 47 by narrowing the discretion of the sentencing court not to allow resentencing on the basis that Valencia posed an unreasonable risk to the safety of the community. Valencia’s argument was rejected by the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court of California granted review.
An essential consideration of the Three Strikes Laws is associated with increased prison costs and an increased prison population, including capital spending and healthcare costs (The U.S Criminal Justice System, 2018). In California, it has been estimated that the Three Strikes Law cost approximately five and a half billion dollars over twenty years. The implementation cost is expected to increase until the year 2019, when the initial third-strikers wave is released. Meanwhile, other costs like parole supervision will also be incurred. An additional parole supervision cost for inmates in California has been estimated at approximately twenty million dollars per annum.
While rulings of some courts have been limiting the law, other rulings are upholding the majority of the law’s provisions (Beale, 2004). As regards the unusual and cruel punishment issue, the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Ewing v. California stated that it is constitutionally legal to sentence a recidivist to a life sentence for committing a nonviolent and non-serious felony. Also, in People v. Superior Court (Romero), the Supreme Court of the State’s ruling was that Three Strikes had not eliminated judicial discretion to dismiss previous violent or serious felony convictions.
Law Enforcement in the American Justice System
The American Justice System is composed of three components; law enforcement, the courts, and corrections (The U.S Criminal Justice System, 2018). Individuals in law enforcement comprise patrol officers, federal agent sheriffs and deputies, detectives, and other people that generally make initial contact with offenders. The latter’s responsibility is to uphold the law, investigate crimes, and apprehend the offenders. Individuals in this docket are required to be knowledgeable about the offenders’ rights, like Miranda rights, reasonable stops, search, and seizure, among others. Also, officers must be aware of civil rights as well as the rights of citizens to avoid violating those rights or compromising an investigation in an instance where a crime was committed.
The courts are another essential component of the criminal justice system, composed of prosecutors, judges, jury members, and defense lawyers (The U.S Criminal Justice System, 2018). The majority of the positions mentioned are held by officials such as county and district attorneys and judges. Generally, the defense attorneys are usually private practice lawyers that tend to specialize in various law areas, such as drug or family law, and the defendants are the ones who typically hire them. Public defenders are the defense attorneys the State provides to defendants who cannot afford their attorneys. Members of the jury are picked from a pool of voters registered in a court’s jurisdiction. They are then selected into a group of six to twelve members by lawyers involved in a particular case before a trial begins. This position is not compensated highly, but it is a part of the responsibilities of citizens. In this component, the individuals’ responsibility is to make sure that the rights of the citizens are not violated and that a fair trial is conducted, but each of them must follow the guidelines that the federal and State statutes have established.
The other component of the criminal justice system is the corrections, composed of parole officers, probation officers, and correction officers (The U.S Criminal Justice System, 2018). Such officers’ work is to ensure that the convicted offenders serve their sentences as mandated by the courts and supervise those inmates while serving their sentences. The work of the correction officers is to supervise the convicts housed in the correction facilities. They are found in city and county jails where the convicts serve sentences for misdemeanors or are incarcerated during or before their trial. Probation officers’ responsibility is to supervise juvenile and adult offenders who are being monitored by courts instead of serving a jail sentence. Also, probation officers tend to conduct a presentence investigation for a court, providing sentencing recommendations to the judge with an information compilation. The presentence investigation involves gathering an offender’s criminal history, interviewing the offender’s family, friends, and colleagues, and offering sentencing recommendations to the court.
Further, they continuously report the parolee’s progress to the court and recommend possible revocations (The U.S Criminal Justice System, 2018). Parole officers also supervise the individuals that were recently released from incarceration by conducting drug tests, home visits, and enforcing parole terms adherence, and they recommend parole revocations if the parolee breaks the terms. Each of those components of criminal justice is vital to the system’s efficient functioning as a whole.
Provide a detailed overview of the case.
Ewing versus California
On the 12th of March in the year 2002, Gary Ewing, a serial offender with a long history of committing criminal activities, was detained for theft of three golf clubs that cost three hundred and ninety-nine dollars each from a golf course in Los Angeles, California (Beale, 2004). When he was arrested for this offense, he was on parole for a nine-year term in prison for a conviction in one robbery and three burglaries. Under the three-strikes law of California, another sentence of the felony requires a twenty-five year to a life sentence. Ewing’s charges and convictions were of one count of theft for the golf course incident.
During his sentencing, Gary Ewing’s request to the judge handling the case was to exercise discretion that was permitted under the law of the State of California and reduce that conviction to a misdemeanor. However, the presiding judge did not accept Ewing’s request and sentenced him according to the three strikes law (The United States Department of Justice, 2018). On his appeal, his argument stated that the twenty-five years to life sentence was not proportionate to his crime; therefore, the judge violated the protection of the Eighth Amendment against unusual and cruel punishments. The court reasoned that the three strikes law served the legitimate interests of the State and rejected Ewing’s claim. The Supreme Court of California did not accept to review that case and affirmed that ruling by relying on Rummel versus Estelle 445 U.S 263. It rejected the claim that the verdict was not proportionate under the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, citing that the enhanced sentences based on the three strikes law served the legitimate goal of the State of incapacitating and deterring recidivism.
Determine if there was probable cause for the arrest of the offender. Had a search warrant and/or arrest warrant been served?
A shop attendant called the police on Gary Ewing upon seeing him limping out of the El Segundo Golf Course in Los Angeles, California. At the time, he was on parole, having served a nine-year jail term. The attendant’s suspicions were raised when he suspected that some things were concealed in his pants; they were three golf clubs. He was apprehended at the parking lot by the police (Find law, 2018).
Outline the steps of the trial procedures, such as
Justice O’Connor agreed with Justice Kennedy and the Chief Justice that the sentence of Ewing was not grossly disproportionate, meaning that it is not a violation of the prohibition on the unusual and cruel punishment of the Eighth Amendment (Legal Information Institute, 2018).
Justice Scalia was also in agreement that the sentence of the petitioner does not violate the prohibition of the Eighth Amendment but on the basis that the ban aimed to exclude only certain punishment modes.
Justice Thomas stated that the Eighth Amendment does not contain a proportionality principle; therefore, the sentence does not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
Justice Thomas concurred with the judgment by stating that the Eighth Amendment contained no proportionality principle (Legal Information Institute, 2018).
Justice Stevens explained that the proportionality principle for sentences that are non-capital was in line with the Eighth Amendment. Because, in the end, a judge is mandated to determine the bail, fines, and death sentence proportionality. There must be no reason for the greater or lesser punishment forms to be subject to proportionality requirement but not a prison sentence length.
While he was still on parole, Gary Ewing was accused of stealing three golf clubs worth three hundred and ninety-nine dollars each. Before this incident, Gary had committed a series of other crimes (Find law, 2018). In the year 1984, he was found guilty of theft. In the year 1988, he again pleaded guilty to felony grand theft auto; but this time around, the sentencing court decided to reduce that crime to a misdemeanor after Gary had his probation and was allowed to withdraw his plea of being guilty, and the case was dismissed. In the year 1990, the defendant again pleaded guilty to petty theft and was convicted. In the year 1992, Gary was again accused of battery and was found guilty. A month on, he was again convicted of robbery, and in January 1993, Ewing was convicted of burglary; later that year, he was found in possession of drug paraphernalia, and in July of that same year, the defendant pleaded guilty to the appropriation of lost property.
In September 1993, he was found guilty of trespassing and in possession of a firearm unlawfully (Beale, 2004). Two months on, he committed one robbery and three burglaries at a Long Beach in California, and in December, the police arrested Gary for trespassing as well as lying to the officers. A glass of cocaine pipe and a knife used in the robbery were later discovered in the trunk of the police patrol car that was used in transporting Gary Ewing to the police station. After being convicted of three residential burglaries and first-degree robbery, the judge sentenced him to nine years and eight months in prison; while he was on parole, he was found stealing those golf clubs.
The key witness of the State was the employee at the pro shop who, in his testimony, he confirmed that the golf clubs that were found in possession of the defendant were Callaway golf clubs, each worth $399. He confirmed that they had the identification number of the shop on them and that Gary did not have any permission to take them, nor did he pay for them (The United States Department of Justice, 2018).
After a trial by the jury, the petitioner’s conviction was of grand theft, and he was acquitted of burglary (The United States Department of Justice, 2018). Since the petitioner was able to waive his right to the jury’s determination on his prior crimes, the trial court was responsible for finding facts and discovered that the allegations of prior convictions were all true. The court denied the petitioner’s motions to reduce the charge of grand theft to a misdemeanor, citing that the record of Ewing of “continuous criminal activity” was within “the three strikes law intent.” However, the court decided to strike his prior criminal activities for purposes of a different sentence enhancement for previous terms of prison. In the end, the Ewing was sentenced to an imprisonment term of twenty-five years to life.
If you were assigned as a jury member in this case, would you find the defendant guilty? Why or why not? Defend your decision with two examples from the readings and your research.
As a jury, one would affirm the conviction. One would reject the claim of the petitioner erred by the trial court to decline to reduce his sentence of grand theft to a misdemeanor. With special consideration that while that specific crime was nonviolent, Ewing had already been convicted of numerous previous offenses—in a period of five years from the year 1988 to the year 1993. Additionally, his current theft was committed while he was on parole less than one year after his release from prison (The United States Department of Justice, 2018). Also, one would reject his claim erred by the trial court by declining to strike either one or more of Ewing’s severe or violent convictions. While noting how two of the defendant’s strikes were violent and the use of weapons was involved, his rehabilitative prospects bleakness, and the fact that Ewing kept on reoffending even when he was on parole. Concerning all of these factors, a jury can conclude that Ewing is within the spirit of the Three Strikes law.
A jury can also reject the claim of the petitioner that the sentence given to him was disproportionate to the Eighth Amendment (Beale, 2004). As observed in Rummel versus Estelle, the court upheld a mandatory life sentence under the statute of Texas recidivism for an offender who is convicted for obtaining one hundred and twenty dollars by pretense in which the defendant was previously convicted for felony twice. The court noted that Rummel had made clear that the sentences enhanced under the statute of recidivists tend to serve a “legitimate goal” of segregating and deterring recidivism.
Do you think the verdict in your case study was justified? Do you believe justice has been served? Why or why not?
The defendant’s sentence is justified. This is in the interest of the public safety of the State in deterring and capacitating recidivist felons. It was amplified by Ewing’s severe and lengthy criminal record (Legal Information Institute, 2018). He had on previous occasions been convicted of multiple felonies as well as misdemeanor offenses, served numerous separate incarceration terms, and most of his crimes were committed while he was either on probation or parole. Ewing’s prior “strikes” were felonies that were serious which, include three residential burglaries and robbery. It is a fact that his sentence is long; however, it is a reflection of a rational legislative judgment entitled to the deference that criminals that have committed violent or serious crimes and those that keep on committing felonies should be hindered. It was mandatory for the State of California to place
Ewing upon the onus of someone who cannot bring his conduct within social norms described by the State’s criminal law (The United States Department of Justice, 2018). It was concluded that the sentence given to Ewing of twenty-five years to life imprisonment imposed for the felony grand theft offense under the “Three Strikes Law” was not at all grossly disproportionate and did not violate the prohibition on unusual and cruel punishments contained in the Eighth Amendment. California’s Court of Appeal judgment is affirmed.
Beale, S. S. (2004). The Story of Ewing vs. California: Three Strikes Laws and the Limits of the Eighth Amendment Proportionality Review. Retrieved from duke.edu: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2953&context=faculty_scholarship
Cleave, R. A. (2018). “DEATH IS DIFFERENT” IS MONEY DIFFERENT? CRIMINAL PUNISHMENTS, FORFEITURES, AND PUNITIVE DAMAGES SHIFTING CONSTITUTIONAL PARADIGMS FOR ASSESSING PROPORTIONALITY. Retrieved from usc.edu: https://gould.usc.edu/why/students/orgs/ilj/assets/docs/12-2%20Van%20Cleave.pdf
Find Law. (2018). EWING v. CALIFORNIA, (2003). Retrieved from findlaw.com: https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/538/11.html
Lee, Y. (2005). The Constitutional Right against Excessive Punishment. Retrieved from semanticscholar.org: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/2ff3/3b3a2095d707c9f472f3e62a88609e139501.pdf
Legal Information Institute. (2018). EWING v. CALIFORNIA. Retrieved from cornell.edu: https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/01-6978.ZS.html
The U.S Criminal Justice System. (2018). Three Components of the United States Criminal Justice System. Retrieved from criminaljusticeprograms.com: https://www.criminaljusticeprograms.com/articles/three-components-of-criminal-justice/
The United States Department of Justice. (2018). Ewing v. California – Amicus (Merits). Retrieved from justice.gov: https://www.justice.gov/osg/brief/ewing-v-california-amicus-merits
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Week 8 – Assignment: Examine a High-Profile Case to Assess the Criminal Justice Process
For your final paper, select a particular case with which you have some familiarity. For example, a high-profile homicide that occurred in your state or perhaps a case where the accused is a juvenile. You can find information from court transcripts or call the law enforcement agency that investigated the case for a copy of the investigative case file.
Then, develop an analysis and compare and contrast the duties and responsibility of police, courts, and corrections. In addition, include responses to the following:
- Provide a detailed overview of the case.
- Determine if there was probable cause for the arrest of the offender. Had a search warrant and/or arrest warrant been served?
- Outline the steps of the trial procedures such as
- Jury selection (Voir Dire)
- Opening statements
- Witness and expert witness testimony
- Cross examination
- Closing statements
- Jury verdict
- If you were assigned as a jury member in this case, would you find the defendant guilty? Why or why not? Defend your decision with two examples from the readings and your own research.
- Do you think the verdict in your case study was justified? Do you believe justice has been served? Why or why not?
Support your Signature Assignment with at least five scholarly resources. In addition to these specified resources, other appropriate scholarly resources, including older articles, may be included.
Length: 10-12 pages, not including title and reference pages
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