July 14, 2022
Media Relations Division
District Attorney Gascón Challenges Merits of Three Strikes Law
District Attorney George Gascón announced today that he is appealing the Court of Appeals ruling mandating the filing of a strike in all eligible cases.
This decision sets a dangerous precedent. The Court is effectively taking the charging decision out of the prosecutor’s hands–the core function of a prosecutor’s office. The decision also forces prosecutors around California to ignore important research that shows longer prison sentences do not lead to increased public safety and to ignore the unique factors of each individual case that militate against using strikes.
The Three Strikes law imposes draconian penalties on defendants who were previously convicted of certain prior felonies; defendants with one prior felony conviction are subject to sentences more than two times longer and defendants with two or more prior felony convictions typically face sentences of 25 years-to-life in state prison.
These policies increase recidivism rates, have little-to-no deterrent effect and keep people in prison long after they pose any safety risk to their community. They also disproportionately affect minorities—almost 93% of people sent to prison from Los Angeles County are Black people and people of color.
District Attorney Gascón is now taking the fight for fairness and rationality in prosecution to the California Supreme Court. Under the California Constitution, prosecutorial power—and thus, prosecutorial discretion—belongs exclusively to the executive branch, and therefore, to the prosecutor’s office.
The Constitution further delegates to district attorneys the power to decide whether to institute criminal proceedings within their respective jurisdictions. That discretion includes the power to determine what charges to bring, and which sentencing enhancements to allege. Courts cannot take that power away.