Most of us understand that the justice system in the United States is not always perfect. We were reminded of this particular phenomenon just recently as an Oakland man recently had his conviction for robbery overturned by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. Though the man had already served his 3-year sentence (name withheld in order to protect the individual’s privacy), it is imagined that his victory must have seemed a pyrrhic one.
The incident in questioned happened in July of 2012 when a grocery store on 96th Avenue (East Oakland) was robbed. Prosecutors had a weak case from the beginning: an unidentified young man entered the store and seemed as if he was going to purchase a pack of cigarettes. However, the clerk suspected the man of having ulterior motives as he was holding one of his hands underneath his clothing. We may only speculate that the clerk believed, possibly incorrectly, that the individual was armed; he tripped the silent alarm. When police tried to find the perpetrator, they came upon the Oakland man who was arrested. Law enforcement officials claim that he was hiding behind a nearby vehicle and, upon being questioned, gave false information. Remember, a weapon was never seen and the clerk never officially identified the arrested individual as the person they believed to have attempted to rob the store.
The man was charged with felony robbery, sentenced to 3 years in state prison, and given a strike on his record under the California Three Strikes law, all of which have now been removed from his record due to the fact that the defense was not given a sufficient amount of time to produce a key witness. According to California Penal Code 211, a violation of this law is always considered a felony and could result in up to 5 years imprisonment in a state facility.