A California man was in prison for two decades for stealing $14. A drug addiction took many years of his life but a judge eventually re-sentenced him and gave him his freedom. David Coulson was 35 at the time when he was sentenced to life in prison for stealing $14.08 and a “small, inexpensive digital scale,” The Guardian reported. In 2002, while Coulson was living in a tent near a freeway, he wandered into a residential garage that was open and grabbed a handful of coins from a jar and a few items.
After leaving the garage, he was later caught by the homeowner, who chased him down and punched him. Coulson escaped but was later arrested by police. This was Coulson third offense in his life and because of the “three strikes” law adopted in 1994. Coulson would go onto spend the next 20 years behind bars.
According to the California Courts:
“California’s Three Strikes sentencing law was originally enacted in 1994. The essence of the Three Strikes law was to require a defendant convicted of any new felony, having suffered one prior conviction of a serious felony to be sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime. If the defendant was convicted of any felony with two or more prior strikes, the law mandated a state prison term of at least 25 years to life.”
Once he was arrested, a psychiatrist diagnosed Coulson with schizophrenia and the courts deemed him not competent to stand trial. This , after doctors medicated him (outside of a state hospital), the courts said he “regained his competence,” and made him to stand trial.
“I was crying out for help. I was doing whatever I could to get the attention I needed,” he told The Guardian. “I was praying it wouldn’t end up with me in prison for the rest of my life, that someone would come to me and say, ‘What’s going on? What’s making you act this way? Why are you the way you are?’”
Coulson opened up about his childhood, including his mother being a teen mother and him being put up for adoption at 4 years old Along with him being abused by his adopted family until he passed out, being sexually abused, and later his introduction to drugs.
During his 2006 sentencing, the judge even showed compassion about childhood, saying, “I certainly wouldn’t want to have lived a childhood that Mr. Coulson had to live.”
However, the judge also said, “He’s just committing one burglary after another … He’s been given a number of opportunities and he just hasn’t learned,” and sentenced Coulson 35 to life.
Originally, Coulson would have been eligible for parole in 2032, where he would have been 65 years old and ordered to pay $10,020 in fines and fees.
In August 2022, California’s department of corrections and rehabilitation recommended that Coulson be resentenced.
Law enforcement said in acknowledgment of his achievements in the classes he took and how the substantial amount of volunteer work he has performed over the years, he should be freed.
Then on Sept. 13, Judge Daniel Lowenthal said, referencing his case, “I’m shocked and angry at how you were treated by the system.”
Coulson said about being resentencing, “This is all I’ve ever wanted in my life. I’ve been crying out for help all my life, and no one has ever heard me.