Kenneth Corley, released under Proposition 36, thanks lawyers

Corley first released under modified 3 strikes law

SAN DIEGO - The first nonviolent offender released under Proposition 36 visited the California Western School of Law Friday to thank lawyers and the school's staff for their help with his release.

Kenneth Corley, 62, was sentenced to 25 years to life in 1996 for a drug possession for sale conviction -- his third strike. He had previously been convicted of two felony "strikes" in cases that involved burglary and attempted burglary.

Last week, San Diego Superior Court Judge David Danielson re-sentenced Corley to about 15 years and he was released based on time served.

His release was the first following California voters' passage of Proposition 36, which modified the 1994 "three strikes" law to require the 25 years to life sentence only when the third offense is a serious or violent felony.

In cases of inmates who sought reductions in their sentences, a judge would be required to decide if the prisoner would pose a risk to public safety.

The request for Corley's re-sentencing was brought about by the Institute for Criminal Defense at the California Western School of Law and the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, according to school officials. Attorneys from the school spent several months working with the District Attorney's Office on Corley's petition.

"I'm very thankful for what Bonnie Dumanis and the California Innocence Project have done for me … I just feel that I'm going to be a better person now … I can't let the people down. They gave me some justice by freeing me. I want to tell the guys that are coming after me: the voters are the ones that made it possible for you guys to get some relief on your sentences. When you get out, make sure you stay out and don't let those people down. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be alright … I'm going to make it," said Corley.

"We thank District Attorney [Bonnie] Dumanis and her team for their help in securing Mr. Corley's release," said Professor Justin Brooks, director of the Institute for Criminal Defense Advocacy, and one of Corley's attorneys. "Our offices worked together to ensure that justice is carried out fairly, and that those who are eligible for release under Proposition 36 don't have to spend the rest of their lives in prison."

"We took this on because it's the right thing to do," said Dumanis.

"It was great seeing the family, hugging the family," Corley said he felt after his release.

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