Malcolm Hanson — 25-to-Life for a Nonviolent Third Strike
The following narrative was written to Governor Jerry Brown by Bruce T. Boccardy, a family friend of the Hansons. Malcom's third strike was given for a domestic dispute with his brother-in-law — even though his BIL did not want to press charges, the D.A. advanced the case anyway (likely as a selfish means of bolstering his conviction record). The third strike was considered serious but non-violent.
Updated July 12, 2018
Dear Governor Brown:
I am writing this missive to bring to your attention an appalling victim of the California Legal System.
My name is Bruce T. Boccardy. I reside in Boston, Massachusetts. Formerly, I was president of a statewide public sector union. My last position was as the labor representative for the Joint Labor- Management Committee. The Committee represents firefighters' and police unions throughout the state. My next position I was as a consultant for another public sector union in Massachusetts.
I am a friend of the family of Malcolm D. Hanson. Mr. Hanson, 50, is incarcerated in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). He was recently transferred for good behavior to the California Men’s Colony in San Obispo from the New Folsom Prison in Repressa, California. He was sentenced almost 23 years ago under the Three Strikes Law.
His first two offenses occurred on the same day. The first offense was attempted robbery with two others of man in a vehicle parked on a public road. No weapon was employed and the victim was able to drive away. Later that night, Mr. Hanson and another person attempted to rob a local drug dealer at a pay phone with a knife. His third strike was his involvement in family fight when he attempted to protect his sister form her then abusive husband. No great bodily injury occurred.
Moreover, I assert that the then husband of Mr. Hanson’s sister stated then as he does now that he earnestly did not want his brother-in-law to be incarcerated. It was a regrettable family incident, but certainly not felonious. Mr. Hanson's family did not possess significant financial resources. They are working folks who arduously engage the economic obstacles burdening many working people.
His youngest sister incurred a large debt to hire an attorney. Unfortunately, prior to the trial, the attorney passed away. Subsequently, Mr. Hanson was sentenced to 25 years to life. Since his first incarceration he was transferred to several correctional facilities in California. As I stated, he is now at the California Men’s Colony.
As you can imagine, his protracted incarceration has fractured the Hanson family. Without the resources or learned expertise, their profound frustration and disappointment further corroded the entire family. There was little hope that Mr. Hanson would find justice from his harsh sentence.
I became involved with Mr. Hanson's plight in 2009. Frankly, I was appalled at the Draconian nature of the Three Strikes law. I am delighted that your administration recognized its unfair and counterproductive nature. Additionally, the financial strain on your state from overcrowding in the corrections system is a genuine concern for your administration. You are to be applauded for addressing the issue.
In 2009, I offered to finance a qualified attorney to seek a measure of justice for Mr. Hanson. Another friend of the family and local bail bondsman recommended a high profile defense attorney with impressive credentials. The bail bondsman joined our team; he was also troubled by the unreasonable length of Mr. Hanson's sentence.
The family met with the attorney to assess his qualifications. After the meeting, they believed that he would be able to help Mr. Hanson. I vetted the attorney by telephone and also concluded that he was competent and talented. More importantly, he believed that the outrageous length of time that Mr. Hanson had been incarcerated was a flagrant injustice.
The passage of Proposition 36, Third Strikes Reform Act (TSRA) in 2012 gave us hope. Our team of advocates and supporters of Mr. Hanson were heartened to learn that this new legislation could possibly affect his case.
Moreover, the trial judge in Ventura communicated to our attorney that Mr. Hanson was probably eligible for consideration under the new TSRA. Our attorney prepared his motion and we believed that Mr. Hanson would finally receive his long awaited justice.
Our optimism was short lived. Our attorney had been remarkably sanguine about our chances, but it was not to be. In December 2014, the same judge who suggested that Mr. Hanson was probably eligible for reconsideration inexplicably ruled against him.
Our attorney was dumbfounded. Needless to say, we were disconsolate. A sizable number of friends and relatives attended the hearing. All expected this abomination to end. Parenthetically, Mr. Hanson's 84 year old mother, severely stressed by the excessive time for the hearing, fell in the courtroom and fractured her hip.
In Nov. 2014, the voters of California approved Proposition 47. Again, we hoped that this initiative would undo the toxicity of the Three Strikes statute and help Mr. Hanson.
Our attorney then began preparing a motion in January 2015 for the appellate court in Ventura. Again a large number of friends and relatives attended the proceedings in support of Mr. Hanson. He had been transferred to the Ventura County Jail to participate in the hearing and was held there for six months.
The appellate panel ruled against Mr. Hanson. This was profoundly difficult for us to comprehend. Our attorney had indicated that we had a fair chance for a propitious ruling. Again he was incorrect. We had to re-assess our strategy. It was at this time that I began having gnawing doubts about the experience and skills of our attorney. Previously, Mr. Hanson had expressed his reservations about him as well. While accumulating an impressive record as a defense attorney, he was not very experienced in TSRA.
His final motion of appeal was subsequently rejected by the Ventura Court as we expected. I was concerned as to what trajectory our strategy should take.
Fortunately, one of Mr. Hanson's sister was acquainted with a friend who knew of a former inmate in the CDCR. The fellow had an extraordinary record in assisting Three Strikes inmates obtain their just releases. I contacted this gentleman and requested that he review our documents. He agreed and I sent him all pertinent electronic correspondence. He was a talented and dedicated advocate for Three Strikes inmates. He also concurred that Mr. Hanson was unjustifiably incarcerated. Moreover, in his considerable experience, the argument presented by our attorney was flawed. In his opinion, our attorney could not have possibly obtained Mr. Hanson's just release.
After considering our options, I dismissed the attorney. The former inmate enthusiastically agreed to help Mr. Hanson. He was now a paralegal and optimistic that he would be able to help him.
He began preparing a writ of habeas for the Ventura County Court. In the previous hearings, Mr. Hanson's former brother-in-law was not called to testify by our attorney. Under Marcy's Law, he should have been allowed to testify. We believed that his testimony would have been dispositive in Mr. Hanson's favor. His former brother-in-law remained adamantly opposed to any further incarceration and would have spoken compellingly to that point.
At the time we were not overly confident that the Ventura court would rule in Mr. Hanson's favor. Unfortunately, that perception was accurate. In April 2015, the panel ruled against Mr. Hanson's appeal.
Mr. Hanson was again denied justice.
Our paralegal prepared a motion to petition the California Supreme Court. The Court denied Mr. Hanson’s writ of habeas. We were subsequently denied justice at the federal district and circuit courts.
This disgraceful distortion of justice in your enlightened state must end.
Mr. Hanson's incarceration of 23 years for his crimes is profoundly disproportionate and unfair. Compare the crimes of inmates released under the TSRA; when the crimes are juxtaposed, it is astonishing that Mr. Hanson is still incarcerated.
Mr. Hanson has turned his life around aided by the rehabilitation programs offered in your corrections system. He is a devoutly spiritual man and abides by his Christian faith. He is a relatively young man and painfully cognizant of his crimes. Make no mistake, Mr. Hanson harbors no culpability to others for his travails. He acknowledges and deeply regrets his crimes. This is an essential standard for rehabilitation and he has attained that standard and more.
In September 2014, Mr. Hanson's 81 year-old father was tragically killed in a vehicular accident. Mr. Hanson had painstakingly planned to care for his parents and contribute to the healing that his family desperately needed. Mr. Hanson had no contact visits with his father for years; now that will never happen. Moreover, Mr. Hanson was not allowed to attend the funeral of his father.
Mr. Hanson's mother will be 89 years old this November and has myriad health issues. She receives treatments for diabetes three times a week and takes medications for a heart condition. It is a tribute to her spirit that she remains optimistic that she will walk down a street in Ventura with her son.
We are all praying that she is with us when Mr. Hanson is released. We want her to embrace her son outside the prison doors as any mother should be there to do.
The Hanson family would greatly appreciate a meeting with an official from your staff in the Ventura area. Many relatives, friends, and acquaintances are following Mr. Hanson’s case. We have a fine job waiting for Mr. Hanson upon his release and a residence with much support from family and friends. Mr. Hanson is cognizant of the obstacles and challenges that await him. He is more than ready to prove himself.
It is axiomatic that a component of paying for one's criminal activities is suffering the absence from meaningful events of family and friends. Mr. Hanson accepts that. However, he has more than paid his debt to the state of California for his crimes. He should not miss any more christenings, birthdays, weddings, funerals or other family gatherings. We on the outside often take such family events for granted. Families are the bedrock of a healthy society. It is time for Mr. Hanson to be allowed to join his.
Thank you for your consideration.
Bruce T. Boccardy