In People v. Henderson, the Supreme Court today holds that a 2012 initiative did not eliminate superior courts’ discretion to impose concurrent, instead of consecutive, sentences under the “Three Strikes” law for felonies committed on the same occasion or that arose from the same set of operative facts.
The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Carol Corrigan is forced to deal with shoddy initiative drafting. The court, of course, puts it more politely, saying that there is “disparate amendatory treatment” and, a bit more bluntly, that, “[a]t the end of the day, the language of the initiative is simply unclear.” (Related: Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye stating two years ago, “I haven’t seen clear language in an initiative, ever.”)
The court does, however, find clarity in the electorate’s overall intent, i.e., “to mitigate some of the more stringent applications of the Three Strikes scheme while retaining rigorous penalties for those offenders whose criminal history reveals they remain a significant threat to public safety.”
The court reverses the Second District, Division Seven, Court of Appeal’s published opinion that disagreed with four other Court of Appeal decisions.