Life Sentence Reversed for Three Strikes Project Client

On December 14, 2010 a Superior Court in Los Angeles ordered the release of Byron Goodwin, who had been serving a life sentence under the Three Strikes law for shoplifting a pair of pants from Sears.  He had already served over 14 years for his crime.

The court reversed Mr. Goodwin’s sentence and ordered him released based on new evidence and argument developed and presented by Three Strikes Project students Rachel Marshall (’10) and Saurav Ghosh (’11).

Mr. Goodwin was arrested in 1996 while trying to “return” the pants, which he hadn’t paid for, in order to buy a car seat so he could take his newborn daughter home from the hospital.  (California law requires that parents have a car seat before they are allowed to leave the hospital with a newborn.)  His prior convictions were two non-violent burglaries, which he committed on the same day in 1983, when he was 18 years old.  Mr. Goodwin grew up surrounded by extreme violence and poverty, and his crimes were inextricable from a debilitating drug addiction.

Rachel and Saurav uncovered powerful evidence that Mr. Goodwin’s previous counsel neglected to investigate or present.  In extensive habeas corpus pleadings, they argued that Mr. Goodwin was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel, that the new information constituted newly discovered mitigation evidence, and that the original sentencing court relied on improper factors—all of which undermined the validity of his current sentence.

Mr. Goodwin’s daughter, now 14 years old, was in the courtroom yesterday with other members of her family as the Superior Court reversed her father’s life sentence and ordered him released based on the time he already served.

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