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Three-Strikes Opponent Charged With 4 Murders

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By Jason Beahm on December 08, 2010 6:16 AM

If you don't like a law, you can always seek to change it.

John Wesley Ewell sought to change California's three-strikes law several decades ago. Ewell managed to narrowly avoid the three-strikes law, which provided for 25 years to life on any third offense on a third conviction, despite several major convictions including two robbery convictions. However, Ewell has now been charged with quadruple murder in a home-invasion robbery this year.

What a sad irony.

Ewell was arraigned in Los Angeles recently and pleaded not guilty. He is facing robbery and stolen property charges, as well as four counts of murder with special circumstances. He is being held without bail.

Ewell managed to avoid his third strike in part due to the fact that his crimes happened in Los Angeles, the Associated Press reports. In LA, the District Attorney's office treats a third offense that is not violent as a second-strike case. San Francisco also rarely applies the law.

California's three strikes laws have been a source of controversy since being enacted. In 1996, the California Supreme Court ruled that judges could ignore prior convictions in determining whether an offender qualified for a three strikes sentence. Prosecutors also have discretion, as they may decide whether to count certain crimes as strikes. Critics say the situation is untenable: mandatory sentences for those charged combined with unequal application of the law.

It is certainly ironic that Ewell now finds himself facing his third-strike, and California is left questioning the wisdom of loosely enforcing the law.

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