Prison Law Blog

Sara Mayeux

Posts Tagged ‘steve cooley

What Will California’s Election Results Mean for Prison Reform?

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Jerry Brown, once the youngest governor in California’s history, will now take office as its oldest. For AG, the Golden State will have Steve Cooley, who’s called for reforming California’s three strikes law (sort of) while overseeing a DA’s office that sent more felons to death row than all of Texas last year. What might all of this mean for prison reform? Rather than speculate myself, I’d actually be curious to hear from readers in comments or via e-mail. UPDATE: When I wrote this post last night the Los Angeles Times had called the AG race for Cooley, but now it looks like Kamala Harris may win by a hair. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I thought readers might be interested or at least amused in some reminiscences of the (first) Jerry Brown administration. These are from a 1988 oral history given by John Nejedly, former state senator and an architect of California’s determinate sentencing regime, which Brown signed into law (PDF link):

There were a lot of things about him, but if you could show something that was socially wrong, had a fundamental social inconsistency, you could get his attention. He was pretty close to the Jesuits, so I got some people in the Jesuit hierarchy to talk to him about it [prisons], because I went with them over to the same prison on Thursday nights, when we would go over there, and they called him, told him what the problems were. It was a minister, you know, that put that resolution of the Attica thing into place, and he called him …

Not for nothing did they call him Governor Moonbeam:

But it was a much more fluid, flexible, unmanaged system with Brown than it was with Reagan. You could pretty well predict Reagan. But Brown. *** Especially when he got into that screwy presidential campaign; that was bonkers. He was all over the place and he had a good looking dolly going over to Africa with him and he flips from that scene and he goes to New Hampshire and screws that one up. and Illinois. God, it was bananas.

But I liked the guy! If I met him today, I’d invite him to go on a hike. He’s the kind of a person you’d go on a hike with.

Written by sara

November 3, 2010 at 8:58 am

The Politics of Three Strikes and the California AG Race

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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.

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