California judges can refuse to cut 3-strike sentences

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The California Supreme Court has ruled that judges have broad authority in refusing to lighten the sentences of "three-strike" inmates, despite recent ballot measures aimed at reducing the state's prison population.

In a 4-3 decision on Monday, the high court said judges may freely decline to trim sentences for inmates who qualify for reductions under a 2012 ballot measure intended to reform the three-strikes sentencing law.

Proposition 36 allowed inmates to obtain reductions if their third strike was not serious or violent.

The Los Angeles Times says the ruling came in appeals filed by David Valencia and Clifford Chaney, who were both eligible for reduced terms under Prop. 36.

A county judge refused to reduce Valencia's sentence, calling him a risk to public safety.

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