Monday, January 31, 2011

Forever and a Day

The guy on the left is Raymond E. Taylor, Jr.  That's his official portrait from the website of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.  He's due to spend something close to eternity in their care.
If you believe the testimony, and the jury did, he's guilty of some 81 counts of rape and other offenses committed on his step-daughter, identified in the court of appeals as K.C., from the time she was 9 until she was 15.  (The jury was never asked to return verdicts on counts 82-140; I don't know why.)  Here's a bit of what the court of appeals wrote.
At appellant's trial, K.C. testified that Taylor first abused her in 2002, when she was nine years old, by placing his fingers in her vagina. Thereafter, he began touching her breasts and placing his fingers in her vagina at least twice per week. According to K.C., appellant also performed cunnilingus on her and had her perform "hand jobs" and "blow jobs" on him. In addition, appellant would have the child watch pornographic movies at least once per week. Taylor also showed his stepdaughter nude photographs of himself and her mother and would have K.C. choose one of the photos of him.
OK, he's a monster.  Got it.
What do you do with him?
There are those who'd say kill him, but the Supreme Court said no death penalty if you haven't killed anyone and that's been Ohio law for decades, so the death penalty isn't an option.  Life?  Well, sure, but actually 8 of those rapes have mandatory sentences of life, so after the first one the rest of what he did is free?
Hell, Bernie Madoff got 150 years and he just tore the heart out of thousands of people, cost charities millions, and helped destroy the national economy.  Surely raping a single child repeatedly is worse.
But what? 
Marquis Hairston participated in a series of home invasions in Columbus, Ohio.  Nobody got seriously hurt though an awful lot of people were scared.  His plea bargain got him 134 years.  In exchange for the state's dropping some life sentence offenses, Coy Dunkle entered guilty pleas to 49 counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor and four counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.  He avoided life and got 110 years instead.  Yippie.
Surely you have to do something equally serious to Taylor.  I mean, you can't just sentence him to death in prison when these other guys have to serve until long after they're dead.  What sort of lesson will that send to other monsters?  And how will that punish him?  Or protect us from him?
Fortunately, the judge in Ottawa County, Ohio, was no fool.  He understood.  He sentenced Taylor to:
8 consecutive life sentences to be followed by (or perhaps preceded by, it's less than clear, though the prison system seems to think preceded by) 642 years and 6 months in prison.
Fortunately, Taylor has hope.  On April 29, 2735, he'll have finished with the term of years.  After that, he'll only have to serve out the remainder of his life 8 times before he's released.
Piece of cake.
Excuse me while I repeat here what I've said before.  This is silly.  It's piling on for its own sake.  A sentence that cannot be served (death in prison repeatedly followed by centuries in prison) - and this one clearly cannot - is not harsher than a sentence that can be served (death in prison).  It is no more frightening.  It sends no more of a message.
Hell, it's not even a good literary trope.  Ultimately, it's a joke, a mockery.  And of course that's precisely not what the judge intended.
Taylor will be removed from society.  We will be safe from him.  He will spend the remainder of his life in prison.  It's unlikely to be a long life.  It's certain not to be a pleasant one.  Then he will die.  And we'll be done with him.  
If he understands irony, he'll have the last laugh.  We, the good people of Ohio, will be denied our pound of flesh.  He won't live and die 7 more times and then spend well over half an additional millenium behind bars.  Damn.
Getting off easy.
There is one somber note to all of this.  The judge actually screwed up the sentencing.  He found that Taylor committed the worst form of his crimes.  Judges in Ohio aren't allowed to make that formal finding even if they believe it to be true.  It won't affect the 8 consecutive life sentences, but it does mean that Taylor gets to go back before the judge so that he can have the 642 1/2 years imposed again - this time without explanation.

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