A decade later, Broadman read about Stanford Law School's "three strikes" project and called attorney Michael Romano, a lecturer who oversees the effort. Broadman urged Romano to take on Taylor's case.
Romano is a former journalist who graduated from Stanford Law School. He became interested in the issue in 2004 while clerking for a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and saw that the court rejected the appeal of a third-striker who was serving 25 years to life for aiding in the sale of a $5 rock of cocaine to an undercover cop.
Romano persuaded his alma mater to establish the "three strikes" project in 2006 and allow him to teach a seminar in which students are assigned to three-strikers' cases under his tutelage.
This year's cases include one person who stole a pair of gloves from a Home Depot. Another had 0.03 grams of meth, the residue on the inside of a plastic bag. A third is mentally ill and possessed a stolen computer worth about $200. They have no history of violence. All are serving 25 years to life.
Romano expects the students will be the best advocates the three-strikers ever have had. He and his assistant, Susan Champion, and their students have helped free 23 third-strikers. One is the man who initially lost his appeal of the life sentence for aiding in the sale of the $5 rock of cocaine. Only one of the 23 has reoffended, for drug possession.
Taylor seemed ideal for the project. Broadman submitted a declaration lamenting his decision. Students investigated Taylor's history, finding his mother sold drugs and herself. When Taylor got in her hair, she would give him meth or marijuana and tell him to leave. Romano filed appeals to the state and U.S. supreme courts. They rejected his appeal.
Taylor will remain in prison for years unless Proposition 36 passes. He is one of as many as 3,000 third-strikers whose crimes were nonviolent and whose third strike was minor and would become eligible to have judges review their sentences if voters approve Proposition 36.
Romano has given the students an assignment for the night of Nov. 6. He will be holding a gathering and expects them all to attend. I hope it will be a victory party.
E-mail: email@example.com. Twitter: @DanielMorain.
THE SACRAMENTO BEE