Gary Ewing (defendant) was arrested for stealing golf clubs worth $1,200. Ewing had prior convictions, including three burglaries and a robbery. Under California’s “Three Strikes and You’re Out Law,” defendants with more than two violent or serious felonies are sentenced to “an indeterminate term of life imprisonment.” Some crimes may be deemed felonies or misdemeanors at the discretion of the prosecutor and the court. Courts may also avoid the three strikes rule by vacating allegations of earlier serious or violent felonies. Ewing was charged with felony grand theft, and the prosecutor invoked the three strikes law. The trial court did not exercise its discretion to reduce the charge or vacate earlier allegations. Ewing was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life imprisonment. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether the sentence violated the Eighth Amendment.