Cruel and Unusual Punishment? Sentencing

Ewing v. California, No. 01-6978;
Lockyer v. Andrade, No. 01-1127

California's three-strikes law provides for a 25-years-to-life prison term for a "third strike" conviction. The question in the cases of Lockyer v. Andrade and Ewing v. California, is whether that law violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment when applied to a defendant whose third-strike conviction was for a relatively minor offense.

The triggering offense in Ewing v. California: walking out of an El Segundo, Calif., shop with three golf clubs (worth $399 each) concealed in one's trouser leg. The punishment: 25 years to life.

The triggering offenses in Lockyer v. Andrade: shoplifting $84.70 in videotapes (Snow White, Casper, The Fox and the Hound, The Pebble and the Penguin, and Batman Forever) from one K-Mart store in Ontario, Calif., and $68.84 in videotapes (Free Willy 2, Cinderella, Santa Claus, and Little Women) from another. The punishment: 50 years to life.

Read the text of the California "Three Strikes" Law (scroll down to section 667).

Read Three Strikes and You're Out: A Review of State Legislation, a 1997 study conducted by the National Institute of Justice.

Read the ACLU's 10 Reasons to Oppose "3 Strikes, You're Out".

Read Gary Ewing's Successful Petition asking the Supreme Court to review his case.

Read the Supreme Court's transcript of the oral arguments in Ewing v. California.

Read the Supreme Court's opinion rejecting Ewing's claim that his sentence for the theft of three golf clubs was grossly disproportionate under the Eighth Amendment.

Read the Ninth Circuit's Opinion that California's Three Strikes law imposed a sentence grossly disproportionate to Adrade's petty theft of video tapes.

Read Andrade's respondent's brief.

Read the Supreme Court's transcript of the oral arguments in Lockyer v. Adrade.

Read the Supreme Court's opinion reversing the Ninth Circuit's opinion in Adrade and holding that Andrade's two consecutive terms of 25 years to life in prison for a third strike conviction is not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law.

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