Pridemore presides over swift deliberations … in court

With the Legislature not in session, State Sen. Craig Pridemore had no excuse to get him out of another form of public service last week: jury duty.

Pridemore, D-Vancouver, was elected by his 11 fellow jurors to be the presiding juror at a trial in Clark County Superior Court.

The jury convicted a man of being an accomplice in a robbery and shooting at an apartment complex.

Deliberations lasted an hour. If only budget negotiations went that quickly.

On Saturday, Pridemore saw the defendant’s defense attorney, Suzan Clark, at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. He told Clark that he and other members of the jury thought the defendant might be facing life in prison under the state’s “three strikes” law, Clark said.

Not so fast, Senator.

The defendant’s prior convictions are for stealing cars. The three-strikes law targets people with serious, and by serious the state means violent, felony convictions. Shoot a person and steal his car? That’s a strike. Just steal a car? Not a strike.

The defendant does face a substantial sentence (more than 20 years) but don’t throw away the key.

The jury convicted the man of first-degree assault and first-degree robbery, both violent crimes, but since they were for the same spree they only count as one strike.

On Sunday, Clark posted on Facebook that she was stunned that her well-educated jury, which included a doctor, thought that someone could be locked up for life when his first two felony convictions were for car thefts.

No state in the country has a law like that, she wrote.

Her FB friends agreed that even well-educated people don’t know the finer points of the criminal justice system.

Make that just about everyone doesn’t know the finer points of the criminal justice system.

As a Facebook friend pointed out, it’s always a surprise to first-timers at the Clark County Jail that — just forget what you’ve always heard on TV — they get more than one phone call.

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