405-778-4800
Adam R. Banner OKLAHOMA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AT LAW
 
 

Life for Shoplifting: Supreme Court Rejects Appeal

17-Mar-2014

In Oklahoma, when we are talking about ridiculously long prison terms that seem far too excessive for the actual offense, we are typically talking about drug crimes. After all, Oklahoma is a "life for pot" state. This time, though, we are talking about shoplifting. 

Everyone has heard the horror stories from California's "Three Strikes" law. Prompted by the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of Polly Klaas, the law was intended to keep violent, repeat offenders like Richard Allen Davis behind bars. However, without stipulating that the third offense must be a violent one, the law put people convicted of petty crimes like stealing socks in prison for at least 25 years, and often for life. 

Oklahoma's Draconian Laws

While Oklahoma does not have a "three strikes law" per se, it does allow more severe penalties for repeat and habitual offenders. Just ask Cecilia Cathleen Rodriguez, who in 2009 was sentenced to life in prison for shoplifting two purses from Dillard's. At the time, Rodriguez already had 28 prior convictions, and when she rejected a plea agreement that would land her in prison for 17 years, her attorney and a judge warned her that by rejecting the plea bargain to enter a blind plea, she faced the prospect of 4 years to life.

Apparently, the defendant assumed that something as minor as stealing a couple of purses would have a sentence much closer to the minimum of 4 years than the 17 years offered by the District Attorney. 

Rodriguez must not have realized that one should never assume an Oklahoma court will be lenient.

Upon sentencing Rodriguez, Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott called her a "one-person crime wave," saying, "It's past time to say, 'Enough is enough.' She needs to be warehoused for the rest of her life." He revoked her probation for a prior shoplifting conviction and sentenced her to life in prison for the latest act of theft in a criminal record dating back to 1971. Her attorney and her family said that Rodriguez is a heroin addict who stole to support her drug habit.

Supreme Court Ruling

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court vacated her conviction, sending the case back to an Oklahoma County judge to review whether or not Rodriguez had adequate counsel to understand that her rejection of the plea agreement could mean that she would get life in prison. The judge found that her attorney explained to her that her sentence would be entirely at the judge's discretion if she entered a blind plea, and he says that the judge informed her that rejection of the plea offer would result in a sentence of 4 years to life. He found that she was well-informed of the possibility of life in prison and upheld the sentence.

After the judge's ruling, Rodriguez appealed to the United States Supreme Court again. She argued that her sentence was excessive and appealed on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. The Oklahoma District Attorney noted that Rodriguez could not raise ineffective counsel in her appeal because she failed to raise the issue on direct appeal.

The Supreme Court last week rejected her appeal without comment.

 



All News

More News

Supreme Court Decision Could Impact the Shape of Oklahoma

09-Dec-2018

In 1901, in advance of Oklahoma statehood, Congress announced that..

Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Task Force Subcommittee Recommends Standardized Rape Kit

24-Nov-2018

Several years ago, news broke that more than 17,000 rape kits sat ..

State Board of Corrections Approves DOC 2020 Budget Request

05-Nov-2018

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections intends to ask the state le..

Despite Medical Marijuana License, Oklahoma Woman Charged with Drug Possession

22-Oct-2018

An Adair County mother has been charged with illegal possession of..

Putnam City West Teens Accused in Locker Room Assault

07-Oct-2018

Recent cases have revealed that locker room antics once perceived ..

Former State Senator Sentenced to 15 Years for Child Sex Trafficking

22-Sep-2018

A federal judge sentenced former Oklahoma senator Ralph Shortey to..

Oklahoma Cities Adjust Ordinances after Medical Marijuana Legalization

30-Aug-2018

After the passing of State Question 788, the law allowing medical ..

Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections Denies Death Penalty Protocol "Deadline"

13-Aug-2018

Oklahoma, the state that invented lethal injection, continues to b..

Lincoln County Abuse Case Has Some Calling for Home School Reform

28-Jul-2018

The case of a 15-year-old boy rescued from a family farm near Meek..

Oklahoma Health Department Seeks Legal Advice after Amending Medical Marijuana Rules

17-Jul-2018

When Oklahomans passed State Question 788 last month, they left th..

×