Contrary to rumor, Snohomish County Prosecutor Janice Ellis is not digging into her office’s old three-strikes case files, as King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg is doing. I had heard that Ellis was as I researched today’s story on Satterberg, who concedes that some early three-strikes sentences may have been unjust. But in Snohomish County, Ellis says after I finally reach her this morning, “it’s not an issue.” She says she knows of only one case where questions of injustice have been raised, that of a serial robber named Cherease Cross, and the prosecutors who worked on that case strongly supported a life sentence.
On the other hand, Ellis says, “I’ve always felt like ‘robbery 2’ and ‘assault 2’ should not be on the list” of three-strikes offenses.” She says she sees too many of those offenses to feel they warrant the exceptional, life-without-parole sentence mandated by the three-strikes law. Second degree assault is particularly common. “Maybe it’s a reflection of our county, that we have a lot of bar fights,” she says.
Although state Sen. Adam Kline is taking a year off his perpetual attempt to reform the law, Ellis says she’d be happy to express her views to the Legislature. “I actually feel quite strongly,” she says. But she also notes that many Eastern Washington prosecutors hold a contrary opinion just as strongly.