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Trial Court Abused its Discretion Imposing Three Strikes Sentence

People v. Dryden Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: H043029 (Sixth Appellate District), Opinion Date: February 17, 2021. In 2013, Dryden, 51 years old, homeless, and intoxicated, had an altercation with several young men. He used a bamboo stick in the fight and was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. The information alleged three prior felony convictions under the Three Strikes law; three prior serious felony convictions; and two prior prison terms. A jury convicted Dryden of the assaults; the court found true the prior convictions, denied a motion to reduce the counts to misdemeanors and to strike the prior convictions in the interest of justice, and imposed sentences of 25 years to life consecutive to 15 years. The court of appeal reversed. The denial of Dryden’s motion to strike his prior convictions and the strict application of the Three Strikes law resulted in a sentence so out of proportion to the offenses as to be an abuse of discretion. The trial court also abused its discretion admitting 2007 and 2012 uncharged acts but the court of appeal found no due process violation and that the errors were harmless and not cumulatively prejudicial. The court found no ineffective assistance of counsel and no abuse of discretion in the denial of Dryden’s request to reduce the convictions to misdemeanors. On remand, the court should implement sentencing reforms enacted during the pendency of Dryden's appeal affecting the enhancements.

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