The decision, coming seven years after voters enacted the controversial tough-on-crime provision, does not overturn Three Strikes but may serve as a barrier against much-criticized applications of the law.

“Our decision today does not invalidate California’s Three Strikes law,” wrote Judge Richard Paez for a divided three-judge panel. “Yet, the Eighth Amendment does not permit the application of a law which results in a sentence grossly disproportionate to the crime.”

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