A California appeals court on Thursday upheld an injunction that said Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon can’t refuse to charge three-strike cases, which can significantly increase prison sentences.
The court affirmed an earlier ruling that said the directive not to charge strikes against defendants violates state law and the rights of prosecutors in Los Angeles County.
“On the merits, we conclude the voters and the Legislature created a duty, enforceable in mandamus, that requires prosecutors to plead prior serious or violent felony convictions to ensure the alternative sentencing scheme created by the three strikes law applies to repeat offenders,” the ruling said. “The district attorney overstates his authority. He is an elected official who must comply with the law, not a sovereign with absolute, unreviewable discretion.”
Fox News has reached out to Gascon’s office.
After Gascon took office in December 2020, he implemented a series of directives to reform how cases are prosecuted. The measures included barring deputy DAs from prosecuting strikes, special circumstances and sentencing enhancements.
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County sued him, saying the policies violated their rights and state law.
“There’s never been a case where a court had to tell a chief prosecutor that his job is to follow the law,” Eric Siddall, vice president of the group, told Fox News. “Just because of the nature of his job, he doesn’t get to ignore or break the law.”
Nathan Hochman, an attorney for the ADDA and candidate for California attorney general, told Fox News the court effectively pushed back “against a prosecutor who wanted to interject his politics over the rule of law.”
“I would view this as the end of king Gascon’s rule and hopefully his eventual recall,” he said.
Gascon is the subject of a second recall effort to oust him from office as critics cite his progressive policies for an uptick in violent crime.
California’s Three Strike Law was enacted in 1994 after voters approved Proposition 184 by an overwhelming majority. It required defendants convicted of a new felony to serve twice the normal prison term. If they were convicted of a felony after two or more strikes, the law mandated they served at least 25 years in prison to life. The law has since come under criticism from some who say it treats defendants too harshly and has led to high incarceration rates for minorities.
“When George Gascón took office, he dictated blanket policies, ignored the law, disregarded evidence and facts, abandoned victims, and ordered his prosecutors to remove provable strikes, special circumstances, allegations and enhancements,” Jon Hatami, a Los Angeles County prosecutor, told Fox News. “George didn’t do that because of public safety or to reform the system or even because it was the right thing to do. He did it because of his own dangerous political beliefs.”
Siddall said Thursday’s ruling was a win for everyone who wants to protect the public from violent criminals.
“This is a win for the voters, a win for the people in the state of California and it’s a win for the line prosecutors,” Siddall said. “George Gascon and violent criminals, those are the two that lose today.