<< Frederick Douglass would have agreed with Amy Wax | Main | Cal. Cops Speak Out on Gun Legislation >>


Serial Arsonist Could Serve as Little as 72 Days Per Fire

| 5 Comments
Wildfires have long been a huge problem in California.  They destroy forests, they destroy homes and businesses, and they kill people.  Some fires occur naturally.  Some are caused accidentally by people, who may or may not have been negligent.  And some are set on purpose.  Arson is therefore a major crime.

Pablo Lopez reports for the Fresno Bee:

A 70-year-old Squaw Valley man who told authorities he lit a string of wildland fires in east Fresno County for "no reason" was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years in prison.

Michael Wayne Hamilton Sr. was initially charged with 30 counts of arson for setting fires over a three year period that started in May 2012 and ended with his arrest in May 2015. But in a plea agreement in August this year, he pleaded no contest to 10 felony arson charges.

Eighteen years is a long sentence for a 70-year-old, right?  He is unlikely to see the outside of the prison wall again, right?


Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/crime/article178325671.html#storylink=cpy
[Superior Court Judge Don] Penner said Hamilton will have to register with law enforcement as an arsonist for life so authorities can keep tabs on him. Penner also said Hamilton could be eligible for parole after six years in prison under Proposition 57, which California voters approved in November 2016. The proposition allows early parole consideration for nonviolent felons.
Six years is 72 months.  If we consider this time in relation to the 30 fires he was charged with setting, that would be about 72 days per fire.

Death is not the usual result of arson, but it is not a rare one either.  Is this what the people of California had in mind when the backers of Proposition 57 told them it was limited to "nonviolent felons"?

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/crime/article178325671.html#storylink=cpy

5 Comments

"Is this what the people of California had in mind when the backers of Proposition 57 told them it was limited to "nonviolent felons"?"

Well, violent felon is clearly defined in Penal Code section 667.5. That statute clearly includes certain types of arson (that causing serious injury or of an inhabited dwelling) but burning forest land is not one of them. Thus, it seems that the voters intended exactly this.

Certainly that is far more reasonable than a claim that voters who voted for a mandatory five year time limit for capital cases really meant it to be an "exhortation," but I am sure you would never continuance such a claim.

"Is this what the people of California had in mind when the backers of Proposition 57 told them it was limited to "nonviolent felons"?"

Well, violent felon is clearly defined in Penal Code section 667.5. That statute clearly includes certain types of arson (that causing serious injury or of an inhabited dwelling) but burning forest land is not one of them. Thus, it seems that the voters intended exactly this.

Certainly that is far more reasonable than a claim that voters who voted for a mandatory five year time limit for capital cases really meant it to be an "exhortation," but I am sure you would never continuance such a claim.

Proposition 57 does not say that it incorporates the definition in PC 667.5, which is a specialized definition for a particular purpose.

And you are correct on the second point. I would not and did not support a claim that the limit was nothing but an "exhortation," regardless of what you may have read.

It's the definition of violent felony for sentencing purposes. Don't you think that when voters gave CDCR the authority to make Regs to implement Prop 57 they would anticipate it would use that definition just as they would have anticipated that the word shall in Prop 66 was not really mandatory being familiar with the case law regarding the legislature's power to set time limits for the courts. The word exhortation is from the Briggs decision by the way.

Penal Code section 667.5(c) says, "For the purpose of this section, 'violent felony' shall mean ..." The section deals with a particular aspect of sentencing law, enhancements for prior prison terms, not sentencing law generally.

There are additional provisions that adopt the 667.5(c) definition, but none to my knowledge purport to make it apply globally to all sentencing.

I am aware that the word "exhortation" appears in the Briggs opinion, but the comment I was responding to concerned my position, not the opinion.

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives