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Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions effectively shut the door on legal challenges to California’s Three Strikes sentencing scheme, according to both opponents and supporters of the law. The majority opinions left little, if any, room for recidivists to challenge life sentences as cruel and unusual punishment. Because Leandro Andrade and Gary Ewing are serving life sentences for relatively minor theft crimes, further Eighth Amendment challenges to a Three Strikes sentence would be a waste of time. “If Andrade and Ewing didn’t win, I can’t imagine what would,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, the University of Southern California law professor who argued Andrade at the Supreme Court. Chemerinsky said any change to the law will almost assuredly have to come through the legislative process, something he hopes will happen. “We have to change the law,” he said. Toward that end, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, is pushing AB 112 through the California legislature. The proposed amendments, which could be put before voters as early as March 2004, change California’s Three Strikes law to make only serious or violent felonies eligible for third-strike consideration. The bill was voted out of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety last week with a 4-3- vote. “Mainly it would not apply to most of the property crimes — theft, petty theft, second-degree burglary, and most of the drug crimes,” said Curtis Notsinneh, Goldberg’s legislative aide. It would also allow Three Strikes inmates to obtain a re-trial on their third strike, with prosecutors also given the chance to allege any prior crimes not alleged in the original trial. “We’re not trying to give somebody a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Notsinneh said. But Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento, doesn’t give the bill much of a chance. He said Goldberg is among a group of legislators who have proposed amendments in the past, and said Gov. Gray Davis may not have the political will to sign it if it does pass. “If I was a betting man, I would bet [the governor] would veto it,” Rushford said. In a statement Wednesday, Davis said he was “happy” with the high court’s decision. Rushford agreed that another court challenge is all but out of the question. “It was a real slam-dunk decision,” he said. Rushford’s group had a good day, coming in on the winning side in three Supreme Court decisions Wednesday — the two Three Strikes cases and a Megan’s law case out of the Ninth Circuit. “I think we’re going to have a few beers here in a little bit,” Rushford said.

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