Friday, December 9, 2016
street news, views and stories of justice and injustice
Follow me on Twitter

Search WitnessLA:

Recent Posts




Three-Strikes Initiative, CA Budget Cuts Policies for Vulnerable Youth, and Famous LA Public Defender Dies at 90

June 13th, 2012 by Taylor Walker


The CA Three-Strikes Reform Initiative officially made it on the November ballot. If passed, the initiative would eliminate the automatic 25-life sentence for minor third-strike felonies and shorten the sentences of some current third-strike inmates serving life in prison.

You can check out the initiative here.

KPCC’s Rina Palta has the story. Here’s a clip:

In 2011, there were about 32,000 second strikers and 9,000 third strikers in California prisons. Some of those third strikers are in prison on serious felonies like rape and murder, but there are a number (and the data is not available as to exactly how many) who’re serving life in prison for things like shoplifting and drug possession.

If passed, the new iniative would tweak existing law, making it so that a third strike would have to be a serious or violent felony. It would also reduce the sentences for some third strikers currently serving life terms.

Last year, the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated the changes could save the state tens of millions of dollars in the short-run, with savings exceeding $100 million annually in the longrun.


In the ongoing effort to cut costs, the governor’s proposed California budget for the upcoming fiscal year seeks to discontinue two policies that greatly benefit some of the state’s most vulnerable youth–those kids in foster care or kids under the care of relatives because their parents are unable or unwilling to care for them.

Foster care journalist/advocate Daniel Heimpel has the story in his new publication, The Chronicle of Social Change. Here’s how it opens:

As Friday’s constitutional deadline for a California state budget looms, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Administration is at a loggerheads with advocates about the future of mandates supporting the educational success of vulnerable children.

In an effort to save nominal cash on the processing of a one-page form and photocopies of student records, advocates argue that the Governor’s Department of Finance is not only hurting the educational progress of [these foster kids or children cared for by relatives], but is also shooting itself in the fiscal foot.

Tucked deep in the Governor’s Trailer Bill outlining the policy changes accompanying the Administration’s 2012-13 state budget, Public Counsel Attorney Laura Faer found two obscure yet important policy changes that will affect vulnerable children. The Brown Administration plans to suspend re-imbursements to school districts as part of the Caregiver Affidavit Program and constrain California’s progressive policy on educational records for foster youth.

This sounds like an overly wonky issue, but for the kids it affects, it’s extremely important.


The beloved former head of LA County’s Public Defender’s Office, Bill Littlefield, died Saturday morning at the age of 90.

His son, Jack, told WitnessLA this of Bill: “He believed in everyone’s constitutional right to a quality defense and had a storybook career as a public defender.” Former California State Supreme Court Associate Justice Arman Arabian once referred to Bill as the “Defender of the Damned.” Bill spent 36 years at the Public Defender’s office—17 of those as head of the office. He worked on high profile cases like those of the Hillside Strangler and the Nightstalker. Jack Littlefield said this of his father’s defense of serious criminals, “The potential for abuse if that quality defense is not part of our justice system is frightening. If we didn’t have public defenders, we’d have a prosecution with no restraint.”

Daily News’ Gregory J. Wilcox has an obit as does the Metropolitan News-Enterprise.

Former LA Deputy Public Defender Ken Green told the Met News that Littlefield tried more death penalty cases than any lawyer in L.A. County—”probably more than any lawyer in California and perhaps more than anyone in the country.”

And there is this from the Daily News:

“‘…He was one of the most dogged defenders of poor people I’ve ever seen in a courtroom,’ another friend, retired California Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian, noted in [a] 2010 profile.”

His daughter also remembers her father’s softer side. “One thing I really remember about him was he really did have just such a big heart for the downtrodden and the disenfranchised. That was really the perfect job for him,” she said.

Even LA District Attorney Steve Cooley sent around a personal statement marking his passing. It began, “I am deeply saddened to inform you of the recent passing of my friend, World War II hero and retired Public Defender Bill Littlefield…..”

To the Met News Cooley went further calling Littlefield “one of my favorite people of all time in the Los Angeles County criminal justice system.”


Posted in California budget, children and adolescents, criminal justice, Education, Foster Care, Sentencing | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. You'reHired Says:

    90 years old…wow that’s a lot of dirtbags he helped go free.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.