The California Supreme Court, in a highly unusual move, yesterday set aside its controversial 4-to-3 decision overturning the state's "use a gun, go to prison" law and scheduled a rehearing on the case for March 7 in Sacramento.
An order granting the rehearing -- only the second issued by the court in a criminal case in 15 years and both of them within the past month -- was signed by Justices Stanley Mosk, William P. Clark, Frank K. Richardson and Wiley W. Manuel.
Chief Justice Rose E. Bird and Justice Mathew D. Tobriner and Frank C. Newman were not recorded as favoring or opposing reconsideration.
The court's original ruling last Dec. 22 in a case called People vs. Tanner set off a storm of protest from law enforcement authorities and state legislators and was described as "inexplicable" in a petition for the rehearing filed by the state attorney general's office.
The court's handling of the case in advance of last November's general election also is the subject of an unprecedented investigation by the state Commission on Judicial Performance.
"I didn't know what they'd do," Deputy Attorney General Gloria F. Demart, who submitted the petition for rehearing, said. "I'm pleased they did it. The original decision was confusing enough and needed clarification."
The original gun law was enacted in 1975 and was designed to guarantee prison terms for persons who use guns in committing violent crimes.