Dec 01, 2010

John Wesley Ewell- Three Strikes and Out

John Wesley Ewell has been charged with murdering Hanna Morcos, Denice Roberts, and Leamon and Robyn Turnage in their suburban Los Angeles homes in September and October of 2010. The charges are a nightmare for opponents of 3 Strikes Laws.  With previous robbery convictions on his record, Ewell had been charged with relatively minor crimes that could have been used as Third Strikes and put Ewell into prison for the rest of his life.  Yet in each case, prosecutors exercised leniency and refused to file Strike 3 charges. As a result, Ewell was a free man when he allegedly committed the 2010 murders.

Supporters of 3 Strikes laws will no doubt call for their use even when a third strike crime is a minor one.  However, predicting future violence is tricky. Studies suggest that most offenders with 2 strikes on their record don't commit additinal viuolent crimes. 

And California is already under a court order to release prisoners. If 3 Strikes laws were strictly enforced, where would the extra prisoners be housed?  And in a state whose budget is already a train wreck, where would the money to pay for all the additional inmates come from?

We all need to mourn the deaths of innocent victims.  But we also have to recognize that discretion is a necessary component of our criminal justice system.  We have no choice but to trust to officials and experts to identify offenders who are likely to commit violent crimes if they are shown mercy.  But mistakes are inevitable.