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Firm wins immediate parole eligibility and monetary award for non-violent offender serving a life sentence under California’s Three Strikes law

26 October 2017
Mayer Brown Article
Pro bono client, Kenneth Oliver, a non-violent offender, has spent the last 20 years in prison. Following a joyriding conviction, he was sentenced under California’s “Three Strikes” law to 52-years-to-life. After a decade in prison, based on his possession of the classic book Blood in My Eye, Mr. Oliver was classed as a “gang associate” and put in solitary confinement for eight years. The Kafka-esque gang validation made him ineligible for release or parole. Raising due process, equal protection and First Amendment claims, the Mayer Brown team got the State of California to agree to void and expunge the gang validation, making the Mr. Oliver eligible for immediate release under California’s Proposition 36. The State also agreed to pay him $125,000.

This case represents one of several new constitutional cases in which Mayer Brown’s Northern California offices are partnering with Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Program on constitutional cases.

The Mayer Brown team included Litigation & Dispute Resolution partners Ward Johnson and Eric Evans and associates Gray Buccigross, Elspeth Hansen, Evan Sippel-Feldman, Zaneta Kim, Cristina Henriquez, Anne Selin (all Northern California), Alexander Payne, Sarah Balkissoon (both New York) and Samantha Reed (Chicago); Intellectual Property associates Joy Lee (Northern California), Anita Lam and Peter Schmidt (both Washington DC); Banking & Finance associate Kim Perez (Charlotte); and Corporate & Securities associate Terry Brennan (Chicago). Mayer Brown academic affiliate Prof. Eugene Volokh also assisted.


  • Edward D. Johnson
    T +1 650 331 2057
  • Eric B. Evans
    T +1 650 331 2063
  • Graham (Gray) M. Buccigross
    T +1 650 331 2067
  • Elspeth Hansen
    T +1 650 331 2043
  • Evan Sippel-Feldman
    T +1 650 331 2084
  • Alexander T. Payne
    T +1 212 506 2357
  • Peter O. Schmidt
    T +1 202 263 3492
  • Kim B. Perez
    T +1 704 444 3617
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