Mike Reynolds, father of California’s ‘three strikes’ regulation, dies at 79


Mike Reynolds, whose grief-driven campaign to get powerful on criminals after his daughter’s homicide led to the passage of California’s “three strikes” regulation, has died. He was 79.

After Reynolds’ unlikely three-strikes victory in 1994, the tide in California finally turned, as reformers carried out new laws and efficiently rolled again measures they blamed for disproportionately incarcerating individuals of coloration.

By the years, Reynolds remained on the forefront of the victims’ rights motion, insisting that not an inch needs to be ceded to criminals.

“As soon as somebody has had two severe or violent convictions, the query is, who will we give the following probability to? I vote in favor of the following sufferer,” he wrote in The Instances in 1999.

Reynolds had open coronary heart surgical procedure in Could and struggled to recuperate; he died from problems of the surgical procedure on Sunday, stated his son, Michael Reynolds.

Reynolds’ quiet life as a marriage photographer in Fresno was upended in June 1992 when his 18-year-old daughter, Kimber Reynolds, was ambushed by two parolees who tried to steal her purse. One among them fatally shot her within the head after she fought again.

Kimber’s killer, who was a profession felony and would have nonetheless been behind bars below three-strikes, died in a shootout with police. His confederate was sentenced to 9 years in jail and launched on parole after about 4.

Days after Kimber’s funeral, Reynolds met with then-Gov. Pete Wilson and informed him, “I’m going after these guys in an enormous manner, the type of people that would homicide little women on this manner.”

He did simply that, turning his grief into coverage at a picnic desk he inbuilt his yard. Over barbecue he cooked in his outside kitchen, Reynolds brainstormed statutes with state representatives, judges and attorneys. He incessantly appeared on radio discuss reveals, sharing Kimber’s story.

At that picnic desk, Reynolds got here up with the thought of imprisoning recurring felons for for much longer phrases. After operating into opposition within the state Legislature, he pursued a poll initiative to place the proposal earlier than voters.

Then, a 12-year-old Petaluma woman, Polly Klaas, was kidnapped and later discovered useless. The extraordinary publicity surrounding the case rallied public anger about crime. The Legislature enacted a three-strikes invoice, modeled after Reynolds’ concept, that imposed necessary sentences of 25 years to life for a felon with two prior violent crime convictions — even when the “third strike” was a nonviolent crime resembling a residential housebreaking or a drug offense.

It was one of many strictest sentencing legal guidelines within the nation, and critics instantly lamented the cruel punishments and the immense price of constructing prisons for all of the offenders sentenced to prolonged phrases.

Reynolds pushed forward, advocating for a invoice mitigating the impact of a state Supreme Court docket determination that gave judges extra discretion in making use of the three-strikes regulation.

In 1997, Reynolds helped cross “10-20-life,” also called “use a gun, and also you’re performed,” dramatically rising jail sentences for felons who carry or use weapons.

“In one of the simplest ways, Mike Reynolds was politically awkward. He was not polished,” stated former California Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, a Republican who was an ally on felony justice points. “He was like your next-door neighbor coming over and sharing his grief with you. And that made it very actual to individuals. Everybody might relate to that.”

Don Novey, former president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn., labored intently with Reynolds for many years on tough-on-crime measures. The 2 exchanged emails the night time earlier than Reynolds died.

“Mike Reynolds struck a chord with the general public, and it was on the proper time. He matched the mettle of the second,” Novey stated. “There was a change in public security because of this man standing tall.”

Many Californians got here to view the three-strikes regulation as too harsh. In 2012, regardless of Reynolds’ crusading, voters handed Proposition 36, which addressed the regulation’s most criticized side — that somebody might obtain 25 years to life for a 3rd offense as trivial as stealing a pizza. About 2,800 prisoners with comparatively minor third strikes turned eligible for decreased sentences.

Nicely into his 70s, Reynolds continued preventing for harder penalties for felony offenders, at the same time as he noticed his legacy being dismantled. In 2021, he backed campaigns to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom and different reform-minded politicians and district attorneys. Twenty-nine years later, he and his spouse nonetheless slept with Kimber’s teddy bear each night time.

Mike Reynolds was born in Fresno on Feb. 29, 1944. Working as a photographer for 45 years, he shot greater than 4,000 weddings.

When he wasn’t advocating for crime victims, Reynolds loved salvaging previous supplies and machines.

“He was continuously decided to enhance no matter he touched, whether or not that be the felony justice system or his spaghetti sauce recipe,” Michael Reynolds stated.

Reynolds treasured journeys to the household trip residence at Shaver Lake. His sons keep in mind summer season events their father hosted. He was a “messy” although “fabulous” chef who charmed company together with his favourite delicacies, Japanese, and his self-deprecating jokes.

Along with his son Michael, Reynolds is survived by his spouse, Sharon Reynolds; one other son, Christopher Reynolds; and 4 grandchildren.


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