Tuesday, July 15, 2014

People v. Bradford (Cal. Ct. App. - July 15, 2014)

I will express no opinion about the merits of Justice Nicholson's concurrence in this case, in which he argues that the vast majority of the Court of Appeal's opinion is unnecessary and unhelpful.

He's surely right, however, that the most important part of this opinion -- to the litigants, anyway -- is its core finding that a guy convicted of having wire cutters while shoplifting from a store isn't carrying a "deadly weapon" such that he's categorically ineligible for potential relief for his resulting three strikes (25 years to life) prison sentence.  Proposition 36 says that you're never able to get your life sentence reduced thereunder if “[d]uring the commission of the current offense, the defendant used a firearm, was armed with a firearm or deadly weapon, or intended to cause great bodily injury to another person.”  The prosecutor at Bradford's shoplifting trial said during closing argument:  “You got wire cutters. You’re going to snip the sensor tags off the merchandise.”  The trial court held that the fact that Bradford was "armed" with these wire cutters meant he was "armed with a deadly weapon".

Thank goodness the Court of Appeal was more rational.

Sure, we classify a boatload of things as "deadly weapons" here in California.  A crazy patchwork of crazy things.

But come on.  There's no way the voters thought that a guy who uses a wirecutter to snip off sensor tags has should invariably stay in prison for life whereas a guy who snips 'em off with his bare hands should be let go.

Just not plausible.