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Judge Refuses to Follow "Three Strikes" Law


September-October 1994

A California judge decided not to sentence a 32-year-old prisoner caught with two marijuana cigarettes under the new "three strikes" sentencing guidelines (Ron Sonenshine, "Judge Defies '3 Strikes' Mandate," San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 12, 1994, p. A17; Tony Slaudes, "County Judge Calls '3 Strikes' Law Insane," The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA), July 20, 1994, p. 1).

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Lawrence Antolini said that to sentence Jeffrey Dean Missamore to up to eight years in state prison would have been cruel and unusual punishment. "To send this man to a state prison ... and take up space for a more violent felon is out of proportion for this crime," the judge said.

Missamore was convicted in 1986 of burglary and auto theft charges. He was arrested in April on the marijuana possession charge when in county jail for petty theft. Although the law states that judges must double the sentence for two-time offenders, Antolini sentenced Missamore to a year in county jail and three years probation. The judge said that a loophole in the state Penal Code allows him to alter sentences "in the interest of justice." Prosecutors plan to appeal.

Antolini said that he favors harsher sentences for violent offenders, but that mandatory sentencing takes away judicial discretion. "This legislation is insane," he said. "It punishes everyone, including the public."