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US Supreme Court Upholds Controversial California '3 Strikes' Law


The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a controversial California law that imposes long prison sentences on repeat criminal offenders.

By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled that California's so-called "Three Strikes" law does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

The ruling stems from a case brought by Gary Ewing. He will spend at least the next 25 years in jail for stealing golf clubs. Since he had at least two prior felony convictions, Ewing faced a 25 years-to-life prison sentence under California's Three Strikes law.

Attorneys for Ewing argued his sentence was excessive and violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. But a bare majority of the Supreme Court justices disagreed, saying the law was justified to keep repeat criminal offenders off the streets.

Twenty-six states and the federal government already have some form of a three strikes law and Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling could encourage more states to follow suit.

In another decision, the high court upheld the practice of posting the pictures of convicted sex offenders on the Internet.

By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court ruled that states do have the right to warn citizens about the identities and whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, especially those who seek out children.

The ruling stemmed from a case in Alaska where two convicted sex offenders had argued that having their pictures and other personal information posted on the Internet amounted to additional punishment after serving time in prison.

The high court also heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether Congress has the right to require public libraries to filter out pornography for patrons surfing the Internet. Opponents, including many librarians and civil liberties groups argue that too much valuable information will be filtered out along with the pornographic images. A decision on that case is expected by June.

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