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Name: Andrade v. Attorney General of Calif.
Case #: 99-55691
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 11/02/2001
Subsequent History: Cert. granted 4/1/02

Appellant was convicted of two counts of petty theft of nine videotapes from K-Mart, charged as felonies under Penal Code section 666. He was also convicted of two prior “strikes” for nonviolent offenses, resulting in a sentence of 50 years to life. In his appeal from the denial of his habeas petition, he argued that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Here, the appellate court held that the California Court of Appeal unreasonably applied clearly established United States Supreme Court precedent when it held that Andrade’s sentence did not violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition. The decision in Harmelin v. Michigan (1991) 501 U.S. 957 articulated a test which forbid extreme sentences which are grossly disproportionate to the crime. Andrade’s sentence was grossly disproportionate to his offense, and the inference of disproportionality was not dissipated by Andrade’s prior record. His sentence was also grossly disproportionate when compared to sentences for violent crimes, and even unusual when compared to other applications of the Three Strikes law. Further, Andrade could not have received such a severe sentence in any other state, with the exception of Louisiana. The court did not invalidate the Three Strikes law generally, but held that it was unconstitutional as applied to Andrade because it imposed a sentence grossly disproportionate to his crimes.