CRIME STORY has received permission to re-print Michael Romano‘s newsletters from Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project whose mission is to reverse the most unjust criminal sentences. Romano and his colleague Susan Champion were interviewed by Amanda Knox for CRIME STORY and you can find the podcast and the transcript of that interview here. You can find a story about Romano’s participation in a U.S. Congressional field hearing on criminal justice reform here.
After eight years (!) of litigation, our longtime client Jimmy Mickey walked out of Pelican Bay State Prison yesterday, a free man for the first time in 25 years!
Jimmy was sentenced to life under the Three Strikes law in 1997. He was arrested when a police officer saw him pull out of a parking lot and accelerate through a residential neighborhood. The officer tried to pull him over for speeding (he was going 45 MPH in a 25 MPH zone), but Jimmy ignored the siren and went through several stop signs before he crashed his car and was eventually taken into custody. He was convicted of evading an officer and simple possession of a small amount of methamphetamine and sentenced to life.
Jimmy first challenged his sentence in 2013 under Proposition 36’s reform to the Three Strikes law. Prosecutors fought the case, arguing that Jimmy was a violent criminal because during his crime he was “armed with a deadly weapon”—his car. In 2017, the judge agreed and denied Jimmy’s petition for release. We appealed, and two years later, the Second District Court of Appeal reversed the lower court’s ruling and sent Jimmy’s case to back Superior Court for a new evidentiary hearing—and thanks to special directives issued by newly elected District Attorney George Gascón, prosecutors were instructed to join our petition for Jimmy’s release.
Yet despite these directives, over the course of several hearings in Superior Court earlier this year, deputy prosecutors continued to fight Jimmy’s case, telling the court (incorrectly) that Jimmy was a dangerous prison gang member. We countered with evidence from prison authorities that Jimmy was, in fact, a target of a prison gang, not a member. With this, the trial court finally reversed Jimmy’s sentence and ordered him released based on the time he already served.
As with all of our cases, this was a terrific team effort. Special thanks to the students who investigated, briefed, and helped argue Jimmy’s case, including Sam Dippo (‘15), Paulina Slagter (‘16), and Diana Li (‘21)—and to our amazing Staff Attorney Milena Blake, who successfully argued Jimmy’s case, both in the Court of Appeal and in the Superior Court last week.
We couldn’t be happier for Jimmy or prouder of our entire team.
Thank you all!