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Client Freed After Serving 16 Years for Trying to Steal Three Disposable Cameras

In 1995 Daniel Ponce was sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison for trying to take three disposable cameras from a drug store.  He had never been to prison before his life sentence.  His prior strike convictions stem from a fight he had as a 19-year-old in 1982 and two non-violent burglaries in 1993.

For most of his life Mr. Ponce suffered from PTSD and Major Depression with psychotic symptoms.  He never received appropriate treatment and as a result self medicated his distressing symptoms with illegal drugs.  Nothing about Mr. Ponce’s mental illness was ever presented to the sentencing judge.  Clinic students Mira Serrill-Robins (’11) and Paco Torres (’11) arranged to have Mr. Ponce evaluated by a psychiatrist and they interviewed his family to get a deeper understanding of his background.  This information then formed the basis for the habeas petition that resulted in Mr. Ponce’s release today.

In the 16 years he has served in prison for trying to take disposable cameras, Mr. Ponce has done the best he can to better himself.  He has consistently sought out and participated in mental health treatment.  He took advantage of the few education classes available and improved his reading scores from elementary school level to college level.  He has also kept in touch with his family who were in court yesterday to watch the judge order Mr. Ponce released.

The Three Strikes Project is directed by Lecturer Michael Romano, and Galit Lipa supervised the students in her capacity as Lecturer.  Lynda Johnston provides able legal assistance.

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