Dozens of inmates in Orange County received a chance Friday to repeal their sentences after voters chose last fall to alter the state’s so-called three strikes law.
Under Proposition 36, non-violent prisoners who were sentenced to life can now be released if their prior convictions were non-violent. Prop 36 passed 53 percent to 47 percent in November 2011.
Demetrius Netter, 28, received a life sentence after he was convicted on drug charges, the third strike for the OC man who had been convicted of burglary twice before. He was one of 23 inmates whose appeal was heard in an Orange County courtroom Friday.
Netter’s stepmother Louise Carol said the family didn’t expect his conviction to result in a lifetime behind bars.
“We thought he’d been home by Christmas,” Carol said.
During 17 Christmases in prison, the father of three earned his G.E.D. and became a Folsom librarian, Carol said.
"His attitude is, 'Mom, God has his hand on me. It’s not my way, it’s what God wants to happen,'" she said.
Public defender Jennifer Nicolalde said her office sees the opportunity to release non-violent criminals as "a chance to correct an injustice."
Those eligible for a reevaluated sentence include inmates like Herman Smith, a burglar who forged checks and robbed banks; and Dirk Thomas, another burglar who was released last month after serving 16 years behind bars.
Still, prosecutors believe that’s where so-called third strikers should remain.
"Statistically, with the number of people now getting out of prison, these are people who do bad things and they will do more bad things," said Assistant District Attorney Ted Burnett.
Netters was not released on Friday. His family, which hasn’t talked to him in three years, left the courtroom alone.
"Through letters, he has shown me he has changed and he’s trying to be better," said his son, Steve Fulton. "When he comes out, I hope he does what he’s been talking about."