Governor Vetoes "Three Strikes" Law that Honors Fallen Cop

Over the weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a proposed law which he says was too similar to a "three strikes" law that the state has already abandoned.

The bill, which was passed in honor of Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer, would have required jail time for any probationer who violated their supervision requirements three times. It specifically requires that a Board of Parole Hearing take a defendant's entire criminal history into account, not just their most recent crime. Currently the parole board has discretion over how much they want to consider.

The person on trial for Boyer's killing, Michael Christopher Mejia, was on probation when he allegedly crashed a stolen vehicle and then engaged in a shootout with Boyer and another police officer named Patrick Hazell, who survived the incident. Mejia had a history of violating his probation terms.

The law, formally called A.B. 1408, was sponsored by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, a Democrat from Whittier.

Brown, however, argues that the proposed law was too similar to a law known as Prop. 184, which was passed in 1994 and amended in 2012. This required a jail sentence of at least 25 years for third-time offenders.

“I do not agree with a three-strikes-and-you’re-out approach [as] the correct solution,” he explained in his veto message.

He said that strict policies of this kind take away the ability of local officials to make their own determinations in a case, noting that they are trained to figure out the best solutions for individual cases.

He acknowledged that the new law was passed to commemorate a tragic situation, but argued that laws need to be considered carefully, not enacted in moments of strong emotion such as this. He warns that bills passed for similar reasons often have unintended consequences because supporters were going more on passion than careful reasoning of the facts.

However, back in Boyer's hometown of Whittier, sentiment was very much in favor of the bill.

Mayor Joe Vinatieri called it "a very measured bill that would have helped greatly."

He especially praised the part that would take the defendant's entire criminal history into account during their hearings. He also added that it received bipartisan, unanimous support in both the State Assembly and Senate.

City Manager Jeff Collier agreed, while noting that with crime increasing, they need a law that will make it easier to go after the worst kind of offenders.


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