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People v. Frierson

Filed 12/28/17 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA THE PEOPLE, ) ) Plaintiff and Respondent, ) ) S236728 v. ) ) Ct.App. 2/4 B260774 JAMES BELTON FRIERSON, ) ) Los Angeles County Defendant and Appellant. ) Super. Ct. No. GA043389 ____________________________________) The Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (the “Reform Act” or the “Act”), amended the Three Strikes sentencing scheme. The Act reduced the class of defendants who are eligible for indeterminate prison terms following a third felony conviction. It also permitted some inmates serving a Three Strikes term to petition for modification of their current sentences. The Act excluded resentencing under certain circumstances. The People acknowledge that they bear the burden of establishing that a petitioner is ineligible for resentencing. The question here is what degree of proof is required to discharge that burden. We hold that proof beyond a reasonable doubt is required. I. BACKGROUND A. Statutory Background We recently considered another aspect of the Reform Act in People v. Conley (2016) 63 Cal.4th 646 (Conley). The background provided there is helpful to an analysis of the current question. “Enacted ‘to ensure longer prison sentences 1 and greater punishment for those who commit a felony and have been previously convicted of serious and/or violent felony offenses’ (Pen. Code, former § 667, subd. (b), as amended by Stats. 1994, ch. 12, § 1, pp. 71, 72), the Three Strikes law ‘consists of two, nearly identical statutory schemes.’ [Citation.] The first of these schemes was enacted by the Legislature in March 1994. (Pen. Code, former § 667, subds. (b)–(i).) The second was enacted by ballot initiative in November of the same year. (Pen. Code, former § 1170.12, added by Prop. 184, as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 8, 1994) (Proposition 184).) The two statutes differ only in minor respects not relevant here.[1] [Citation.] “Under the Three Strikes law as originally enacted, a felony defendant who had been convicted of a single prior serious or violent felony (a second strike defendant) was to be sentenced to a term equal to ‘twice the term otherwise provided as punishment for the current felony conviction.’ (Pen. Code, former § 1170.12, subd. (c)(1).) By contrast, a defendant who had been convicted of two or more prior serious or violent felonies (a third strike defendant) was to be sentenced to ‘an indeterminate term of life imprisonment with a minimum term of’ at least 25 years. (Pen. Code, former § 1170.12, subd. (c)(2).)” (Conley, supra, 63 Cal.4th at p. 652.) Thus, under the original law, a defendant previously convicted of two qualifying strikes was subject to a life term if he was subsequently convicted of any new felony, regardless of whether it was a serious or violent one. “The Reform Act changed the sentence prescribed for a third strike defendant whose current offense is not a serious or violent felony. [Citation.] Under the Reform Act’s revised penalty provisions, many third strike defendants 1 Because the relevant portions of the legislative and initiative versions of the Three …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court