Thursday, August 1, 2013


The extra time on top of the life sentence  "is largely symbolic."
So said a spokesman for the prosecutor.  To which about all I can say is
As in, there's some part of a sentence that's to last a thousand years after the guy is dead that isn't "symbolic"? Just which part is that?  The first 5 years after he's dead? The first 50?

I know. I get it.  Sort of. 

He was a bad dude, did terrible stuff.  We needed to throw the book at him.  That's why he faced a 977 count indictment.  Which was, of course, silly.  No jury could possibly after trial coherently deliberate and decide whether the state actually proved count 363 or 872 or whatever.  And frankly, they could never try them all and try to prove each one.

The indictment was, I suppose, intended to make a point.  Just as the extra thousand years is.  But what point, exactly?  That the government can pile on?  No, wait, it's not piling on.  It's symbolism.  But that explains nothing.  What's it a symbol of?  The community's outrage, that spokesman went on to say.  But how does a meaningless gesture, really, an absurd one, symbolize outrage?

Look, I studied literature for years.  I taught it.  I get the idea of symbolism.  I'm all for it.  But sometimes it just becomes a farce.  This is one of those times.

It is said, and since he's entered guilty pleas to 937 of the 977 counts it's now true as a matter of law, that Ariel Castro kidnapped, held captive for a period of nearly 10 years, repeatedly raped and beat three women.  He fathered a child with one of them.  He forcibly aborted another by beating and perhaps starving the mother.  In conventional terms, that makes him a monster.  (He specifically denied that at his sentencing, but I don't imagine that convinced anyone who didn't already doubt his monsterhood.  In any event, it doesn't matter here since this isn't a post about him.) Certainly, the things he was charged with and pleaded guilty to doing are monstrous.

But 977 counts?  That could never have been meaningfully tried?  And a sentence that specifically exceeds his life span - whatever it might end up being - by 1,000 years?

I'm sorry.  It's nonsense.  It doesn't convey the seriousness of what he did.  It won't deter anyone else.  (Gee, I'd risk it for the life sentence, but not when there's a risk of 1,000 years on top of that.)  It doesn't increase his punishment.  It doesn't even provide any meaningful satisfaction to the women he so abused.  (OK, now that he's dead he can start serving the sentence for what he did to me.)

No, it makes a mockery of the system.  Just as Bernie Madoff's 150 year sentence is a mockery.  

Look, the point is that the folks who get these sentences will never be released from prison.  They're getting LWOP without the formal designation.  (Well, Castro got the designation, but you get my point.)  It's complicated in some cases how to make the sentence one that leaves some satisfaction.  But in other cases it's easy.  You count up the victims, impose a term of years for each such that the total, when they run consecutively, lasts a few years longer than the age to which anyone can live.

Not decades longer.  Not centuries longer.  No need to add a few millenia.  Just enough to guarantee the result you want.

So they gave Castro LWOP plus 1,000.  Someone, I suspect spent hours working out the details of how to parse 937 counts so that he got to and even 1,000 and not, say, 987 or 1,015.  Then the sentencing, where the judge had to pronounce a specific sentence for each offense and issue a written sentencing entry that outlines it all.  And I don't know how he did all that, because I was working rather than watching.

But I'd lay odds that he'll have to correct it, because surely some piece of it was screwed up.

Oh, and the judge had to tell him that after he's died, and then served his 1,000 years and been released, he'll be subjected to various periods of post-release control.  And if he violates, he could be sent back to prison for up to 9 months at a time.  Which will, of course, be sufficient to assure his compliance with the terms of post-release control when he begins serving it.  

1,000 years from now.


You can't make this shit up.

Nor can you take it seriously.


  1. So negative. At least it wasn't life plus cancer. Look on the bright side.

  2. Yeah, but if it were life followed by cancer.

  3. Nice point. There was a woman judge in Texas that was overly fond of handing out multiple sentences of 99 years to be served consecutively, and I often wondered just what the point was. Sentence the strayed choir boy to LWOP and have done with it.

  4. Maybe life + 1000 means he has to be buried within the walls of the prison?

    Also, it would seem to me that he could have plead to 4 counts of the highest degrees of kidnapping, rape, and assault (I guess throw in that horribly-difficult-to-prove murder of an unborn child, too) and the same thing could happen: he'll die in prison.

    1. Actually, the agg murder alone is good for LWOP. The rest is gravy.

      I haven't bothered to track down just which offenses got which sentences. it doesn't really matter.

  5. I think you just made a pretty cogent argument in favor of the death penalty!

    1. Actually, that wouldn't change anything. They'd still run the rest of the sentences consecutive to it. So instead of Death in Prison plus 1,000 years, it would be execution plus 1,000 years. Except they'd have had the uncertainty of a trial, put the women through it when they clearly didn't want that, and then a couple of decades of additional litigation at the end of which either he'd be where he is now or they'd maybe (no more than a 2-3 percent chance I'd say) get to execute a guy who's well up into his 70s - if he lived that long.