January 19, 1999
Jan. 19th: U.S. Supreme Court Gives Hints That California's Three Strikes Is Unconstitutional
Although the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of certiorari for the case of Michael Wayne Riggs v. California, in the opinion of Justice Steven (with whom Justice Souter and Justice Ginsburg joined--and Justice Breyer voted to hear the case), he questioned whether a 25 years-to-life sentence for stealing a bottle of vitamins from a supermarket (normally a misdemeanor for only a first offense) would be protected under previous Supreme Court decisions because it was necessarily a crime "concededly classified and classifiable as a [felony]."
The case was denied, however, because "[n]either the California Supreme Court nor any federal tribunal has yet addressed the question."
To read the opinion, please click here.