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Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón cannot prohibit prosecutors from seeking sentencing enhancements for defendants under the state’s “three-strikes” law, the California Second District Court of Appeal ruled Thursday, June 2.
The court’s opinion affirms a 2021 preliminary injunction issued by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant, who ruled that Gascón’s three-strikes enhancement ban is illegal and violates the rights of prosecutors.
“The district attorney overstates his authority,” the appellate court said, concurring with the lower court ruling. “He is an elected official who must comply with the law, not a sovereign with absolute, unreviewable discretion.”
Still, the state’s Constitution and Supreme Court vest district attorneys with sole authority to determine whom to charge, what charges to file and pursue, and what punishment to seek, the appellate court said.
“That power cannot be stripped from the district attorney by the Legislature, judiciary, or voter initiative without amending the California Constitution,” said the court.
Gascón seemingly seized on that statement to declare the ruling as a victory for his office.
“Today’s ruling maintains the district attorney’s discretion and authority as an elected constitutional officer,” the District Attorney’s Office said in an email. “The court affirmed his ability to pursue his policy goals in the furtherance of justice.”
California’s three-strikes law was enacted by voters in 1994 to add prison time to the terms of previously convicted felons. The law requires that defendants convicted of any felony, with two or more previous felony strikes, be sentenced to a mandated prison term of 25 years to life. The law also doubles prison sentences for second strikers.The injunction follows a lawsuit filed by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which argued that a series of controversial directives issued by Gascón immediately after taking office are unlawful and violate prosecutorial discretion.Gascón appealed the trial court’s decision, arguing […]
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