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 being sentenced to 167 years-to-life under the Three Strikes law, Tommy Dye’s sentence was reversed, and we’re so happy to report that he’s home for the holidays!

Tommy’s case is an example of some of the worst abuses of the Three Strikes law.

In 2004, Tommy was convicted and sentenced to under Three Strikes for a series of non-violent thefts, in which no one was injured. At his original trial, the judge denied the prosecution’s request for a life sentence and instead issued a shorter punishment, noting the nonviolent nature of his crimes. The San Diego District Attorney appealed that decision, and Tommy’s sentence was reversed on a technical error. When his case went back to the trial court, Tommy was assigned to a new judge who sentenced him to 167 years-to-life. 

In 2015, after the passage of Proposition 47, Tommy’s sentence was reduced by over 100 years—to a mere 51-years-to-life. We then challenged the state’s decision to disqualify Tommy (and other Three Strikers) from the benefits of early parole for people convicted of nonviolent crimes. After winning the issue in the Court of Appeal, Tommy was finally given his chance before the parole board, which ordered him released based on his exceptional rehabilitation while incarcerated. Despite having no realistic hope of being released from prison during his lifetime, Tommy was a model inmate. He took a leadership role in multiple rehabilitation groups and became deeply involved in the Catholic community in prison. He also suffered from lymphoma and recurrent skin cancer, which have required multiple medical interventions and led to near total loss of vision in his right eye.

After 20 years behind bars, Tommy finally walked free and was met at the prison gates by Carlos Cervantes from the ARC Ride Home reentry team. Carlos bought Tommy his first meal of freedom, some new clothes, and brought him to Amity, his long-term residential reentry program in Los Angeles.

This was another long and hard-fought team effort. We couldn’t be prouder of our team or happier for Tommy that he’s finally home for the holidays!


We’re also very happy to announce the marriage of Dennis and Patty Barnes! Dennis is a former client who served over 24 years of a life sentence under the Three Strikes law for shoplifting three cans of coffee from a San Mateo grocery store. After years of litigation, and commendations from prison officials, Dennis was released last summer. He and Patty were married on the beach in Hawaii over the Thanksgiving weekend, and we wish them all the best of luck and happiness!

Thank you all for your support, and happy holidays! 

– Mike 

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