The Politics of Three Strikes and the California AG Race
The Economist has been on a roll lately with coverage of the American criminal justice system. Today the magazine published this article on California’s three strikes law (the appeal described was litigated by Emily Galvin, a student in Stanford Law School’s Criminal Defense Clinic). As the article highlights, this year’s California AG race is shaping up to be interesting. San Francisco DA Kamala Harris has not won many fans statewide with her strict no-death-penalty policy, so she’ll seek to prove her tough-on-crime bona fides, in part, by muting her criticisms of the three strikes law. Her Republican opponent, Los Angeles DA Steve Cooley, has more leeway to be vocal:
… Steve Cooley has other ideas about Three Strikes, which he values as a “powerful recidivist tool” but also considers “draconian”. Mr Cooley has become the first DA in California to have a written policy not to invoke the three-strikes law when neither the current crime nor the previous strikes are violent or serious. … As a conservative, he need not be as paranoid as his Democratic rival about being called soft on crime. The son of an FBI agent and a proponent of the death penalty, Mr Cooley can point out the obvious—that the law is often egregiously unjust—and still be considered tough.
With or without a written policy, the San Francisco DA’s office has historically charged far fewer three strikes cases than other counties. But Kamala Harris will certainly not emphasize that in her campaign.