After spending 13 years in prison, a California man who became an example of the state’s “three strikes” law has been released.
According to the Associated Press, a California Superior Court judge released Gregory Taylor, 47, who was sentenced to 25 years to life in 1997 after he was arrested for trying to break into St. Joseph’s Church in Los Angeles to find food.
Tears began to pour down Taylor’s face and presiding Judge Peter Espinoza requested someone hand him a tissue.
“I thought I was going to cry too,” Reiko Rogozen, a law student who worked on the case through Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project told the AP.
According to the AP, Taylor was freed after the Stanford Law Project filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking his freedom. The district attorney did not oppose the action.
Taylor told officers when he was arrested in 1997 that he attempted the break in because he was hungry.
Rev. Alan McCoy, the pastor of St. Joseph’s, testified in Taylor’s defense and said the church often gave him food and allowed him to sleep there. He added that he was a peaceful man who was grappling with homelessness and crack addiction.
Prior to his 1997 sentence, Taylor was first convicted of robbery in the ‘80s when he stole a woman’s pocketbook and later was convicted of a street robbery.
While other states have adapted their own versions of the three strikes law, none of them has been as sweeping as California’s. Originally introduced in the state in 1994, the law brings about a life sentence in prison after conviction following a third felony. Parole is normally not considered until 25 years have been served.
Since the law’s inception, many have contended the law is unfair. Espinoza said from the bench at the time he granted the release that the law “produced inconsistent and disproportionate results.” Others argue the law has drastically assisted in reducing crime.
Taylor is not alone as an example of the unforgiving nature of the “Three Strikes” law in California. A 1995 theft of five videotapes from a California K-Mart resulted in a 25 year to life sentence for Leandro Andrade. And Kevin Weber is serving a 26-year to life term in a California prison for a break in which resulted him being he arrested with four stolen cookies in his pocket.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the law does not violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.”
According to the San Diego News Network, the law was advanced by Mike Reynolds, a Fresno photographer, after the murder of his 18-year-old daughter. When one of her killers, a repeat felon, was released in nine years, Reynolds called for more stringent laws. His website www.threestrikes.org recently released a 15-year study displaying the reductions in crime and the lives saved as a result of three-strikes.
“Since then, there have been over 3 million fewer serious and violent crime victims and 10,000 fewer murders,” Reynolds said. “What’s really astonishing is, we’ve seen an increase in California’s population by over 50 percent, but a 50 percent decrease in crime.”