Kareem Starkes - Juvenile Sentence Used to Impose 3rd Strike Resulting in 60-to-Life Sentence


By Shivonn Gapelu

Kareem with his Fiancée Shivonn

Kareem with his Fiancée Shivonn

I would like to share my fiancé’s Three Strikes story. His name is Kareem Starkes and he is currently serving a 60-to-life sentence in California at Kern Valley State Prison. In 1995, Kareem was charged with a robbery in Sacramento County. He was convicted and received his first strike and 3 years in prison.

After his release, he struggled to find work to support himself or his family, and was convicted of a second burglary in 1997. The DA offered him 5 years. Since that would be doubled because of a second strike, he was encouraged to take the case to trial.

The District Attorney in charge at the time unexpectedly took herself off the case and a new DA came in. The new DA, looking to build a “tough on crime” reputation, discovered a case Kareem was involved in as a juvenile. The new DA then used the juvenile conviction to assign a third strike to Kareem. Now, instead of a 5 year sentence with a 5 year enhancement, Kareem was given a mandatory sentence of 60 years to life under California’s Three Strikes law.

Kareem was never legally advised that his juvenile conviction could be used against him as a third strike — otherwise he would have taken the plea bargain. Mr. Starkes received 60 years to life and has served 21 years so far. Right now his earliest possible parole is in 2034.

I strongly believe that Kareem was a victim of an over-zealous DA using the brand new Three Strikes Law to impose a ridiculous amount of time for the offense committed.

I don’t disagree that Kareem absolutely should have served time for his crimes, but to be sentenced harsher than most people convicted of murder is absurd. Mr. Starkes is absolutely rehabilitated and he is ready to enter back into society. He should technically only have two strikes, and we have petitioned Governor Jerry Brown to commute his sentence and allow him to come home!

Judson ParkerComment