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May 20, 2009

"Longtime fugitive mom freed from prison"

The title of this post is the headline of this article that provides an update on a high-profile case that prompted interesting sentencing debates when it first made news.  Here are a few details:

Susan LeFevre's first prison stretch 33 years ago was so scary that she decided to escape. Now, more than a year after her capture, the woman who changed her life to become a suburban mom in California is free again — and this time her departure was legal.

"It's been very traumatic. I didn't think I'd make it at times," LeFevre, 54, said of her second term behind bars, describing prison as a "very tragic" place.

She was released Tuesday from the Huron Valley prison, south of Ann Arbor, and rode away in a car, a more comfortable departure than in 1976 when she climbed a fence at another prison to escape a 10-year sentence for a heroin deal....

A judge in September placed her on probation for the escape.  Separately, the Michigan Parole Board voted in January to release her from prison on the drug sentence, saying she had led a productive and crime-free life in California.  But the board made her wait until Tuesday because of misconduct in prison. Her record has been clean the past four months....

In prison, humor and conversation among inmates are a cover for a harsh reality, LeFevre said. "There is a real suffering from being detached from the world. I hope there's a lot more done for rehabilitation," she said....

In 1976, LeFevre had served about 14 months of a 10-year sentence for a heroin sale when she escaped.  She expressed regret to a Wayne County judge last fall and said it was a "terrible thing to do."  LeFevre said she was just 21 and frightened by other inmates.  When she returns to California, LeFevre will be on parole for the drug crime until May 2013. She can't drink alcohol, possess firearms or associate with felons.

One of many notable aspects of this story is that Susan LeFevre is often described a "fugitive mom" rather than a fugitive drug dealer or esacped prisoner.  And she only got to be a mom because she was a fugitive after her prison escape.  Though perhaps we should not be troubled by this high-profile example of gender bias, I think it unlikely that a man who acted just like LeFevre would now be viewed in such forgiving ways.

Prior posts on LeFevre case:

UPDATE:  This interesting commentary from the Detroit Free Press, headlined "So long, Susan, and don't forget a promise," suggests that LeFevre herself recognizes that her gender and class have played a role in her notoriety:

Last July, I was the first journalist to interview LeFevre, now 54, after she was brought back to a Michigan prison, after spending 32 years as an escaped prisoner in California.  There, she married, raised three children and lived a model life in suburban San Diego.

But I didn’t show up at Tuesday’s press conference outside Huron Valley Correctional Facility, where she was released and joined her husband, Alan Walsh, a waste industry executive.  As someone who spends more time in prisons talking to and writing about inmates than any journalist in Michigan, I’ve seen dozens, maybe hundreds, of injustices greater than hers.  Her case, however, generated more publicity than any I’ve reported in the last decade, including the 2006 death by heat and thirst of Timothy Joe Souders, a 21-year-old mentally ill inmate.

Still, I fully supported her bid for freedom.  She poses no risk to society.  Whatever the word “rehabilitation” means, she can claim it....

Whenever I talked to Susan, and whenever she wrote to me, she seemed very much aware that she was getting extra media play because she was an upper-middle-class white woman who lived in an affluent suburb.  But she wanted to use that attention, she told me, to raise awareness about problems in the prison and criminal justice system, especially for women.

The light of the cameras can both illuminate and blind. Now that she’s free, I hope Susan won’t forget the people she’s left behind.

May 20, 2009 at 09:19 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"Though perhaps we should not be troubled by this high-profile example of gender bias, I think it unlikely that a man who acted just like LeFevre would now be viewed in such forgiving ways."

That doesn't make any sense to me. If anything we should be MORE troubled, not less.

Posted by: Daniel | May 20, 2009 9:47:07 AM

Not sure that there is really a ton of gender bias. I cannot imagine that people would really want to lock up a man with a similar record for that long either.
.
The alcohol restriction is ridiculous.

Posted by: federalist | May 20, 2009 9:57:00 AM

I would have thought the alcohol restriction to be standard for parole/probation. Especially for someone with past drug problems, regardless of any evidence that they have since cleaned up.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 20, 2009 10:13:42 AM

The primary disparity on display here is not gender disparity, it's race and class disparity. If Leferve wasn't rich and white not only would she still be serving time (especially if she had engaged in "misconduct" inside prison), but we'd have never even heard of her.

But this is what all you progressive sentencing reformers like to see, right? Judges and parole boards making "exceptions" for these poor downtrodden soccer moms and business executives who ain't never been in trouble before.

Posted by: CrackFacts | May 20, 2009 10:16:16 AM

I cannot imagine that people would really want to lock up a man with a similar record for that long either.

Nevertheless, we routinely do.

The alcohol restriction is ridiculous.

I agree, but it seems to be a standard probation/parole restriction.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | May 20, 2009 1:11:39 PM

In my view, class, race and gender bias are all still alive and well within the world of criminal sentencing (and were even when the federal sentencing guidelines were mandatory). I don't know enough about this case to have a definite opinion on whether it is an example of 1, 2, or all 3 of these biases at work, but it certainly could be.

Posted by: female AFPD | May 20, 2009 2:20:32 PM

One suspects that in 1976, that a ten year heroin sentence would result in release much sooner on parole. This was before the war on drugs really took hold. If she had already served a little more than a year, she had probably been looking at three or four more years in prison.

Then again, more time in prison might have turned her into a career criminal.

Posted by: ohwilleke | May 20, 2009 5:21:05 PM

Lefevre and her family did a good job of using the media to get her story out. They also did a great job of using the computer and blogs. I believe she had about 5000 signatures via a web site asking for her pardon. My thought is that she did not have to be rich or white it was her story that was unusual and it was good enough to get her out of jail. Stay tuned for the made for TV movie.

Posted by: Anon | May 20, 2009 5:52:08 PM

federalist, are you REALLY saying that you "cannot imagine that people would really want to lock up a man with a similar record [i.e., a record of heroin dealing and prison escape] for that long either." According to the latest statistics, the mean federal prison term for convicted heroin defendants is around 7 years and more than half of these offenders are in criminal history category 1. Of course, some of these folks may have been involve in larger deals, but some are also subject to 5-year and 10-year mandatory minimums. And, of course, this does not factor in escape from prison, which usually must be punished harshly for deterrence reasons.

For another example, be sure to catch tomorrow's congressional hearing on crack sentencing. Former baseball player Willie Mays Aiken will be testifying about receiving a 20-year prison sentence for seeking to sell a small quantity of crack. I often assume you know what you are talking about, federalist, but you lose A LOT of credibility when you say things like "I cannot imagine that people would really want to lock up a man with a similar record for that long either."

Posted by: Doug B. | May 20, 2009 6:10:52 PM

Doug, this time, instead of leading with your chin, you come at me throwing haymakers. Too bad they're easy to slip. Uh Doug, you take the comment completely out of context. You raised the possibility of gender bias with respect to the disposition of her case after she was caught after leading a completely (from a criminal justice standpoint) uneventful life. My comment was in response to that. Perhaps it wasn't crystal clear (sorry about that, although I think it sufficiently clear so as to preclude the tone of your post), but it seems pretty obvious that I was talking about the problem where someone has been on the lam for a long time and has lived a crime-free life since. And in those cases, I don't think there's a ton of gender bias. Personally, I didn't see a ton to be gained from locking this woman up for a year, and if it were up to me, I would simply have released her. I seem to recall an elderly, infirm African-American man on the lam for an armed robbery conviction for 30 odd years who wound up serving a couple of days in jail. I don't think people lost a whole lot of sleep over that one. I certainly didn't.

So I don't see how Willie Mays Aikens is at all germane to the debate. I feel bad for the guy, and maybe his case deserves clemency (remember, I am not opposed to more aggressive use of clemency), but his case and Lefever's are like apples and oranges.

So Doug, I think my credibility continues unmarked by your overeager post. Perhaps you're still steamed because I clowned you in this thread:
http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2009/05/you-make-the-call-should-pa-file-a-brief-in-graham-and-sullivan-.html#comments

Posted by: federalist | May 20, 2009 6:35:04 PM

federalist thinks that lenient sentences are justified when someone escapes from prison and then leads a crime-free life. Doesn't this encourage escape attempts? Kent S., Bill Otis, do you agree with federalist on this one?

Posted by: observer | May 20, 2009 6:45:27 PM

observer, it's more limited than that--the original crime cannot have been that serious and the crime-free life had to have lasted for a long time.

Having this woman spend a year in jail seemed a bit silly. But had she been a murderer, then absolutely no sympathy.

Posted by: federalist | May 20, 2009 6:51:21 PM

"Susan LeFevre's first prison stretch 33 years ago was so scary that she decided to escape"

...but apparently not scary enough to keep her from dealing heroin. These news articles can be a bit tendentious.

Posted by: anonymous | May 20, 2009 8:17:30 PM

federalist, you seem to like puffed up fighting metaphors and claiming false victories. I am now starting to wonder if "federalist" is also your imagined pro wrestling moniker, since you often talk like the comic book villians in the WWF.

In any event, after reviewing your comments here and in the referenced thread, it now is clear to me that you expect readers to add lots of extra context to your comments and also that you are bothered when others fail to assume the (often opaque) limitations that your think are implicit in your comments. The fact that many readers did not see all the limitations in your initial bold statements (e.g., "I cannot imagine that people...") should perhaps encourage you to make your points with more precision rather than hope/expect everyone will see the (opaque) limitations that you think are implicit in your comments.

For example, you assert that LeFevre's "original crime cannot have been that serious," but then how do explain the fact that she got a 10-year sentence?!? From what I can tell, her original drug crime is quite comparable to Willie Mays Aikens' drug crime. Then, LeFevre went on to escape from prison and live fraudulently for 30 years, which does make the comparison "apples and oranges." I concur that comparisons are hard in different contexts, but I still find remarkable (and I think encouraging) that you NOW view drug dealing and prison escape as not that serious if/when the drug dealer/escapee avoids capture and leads a clean (phony) life.

The more I come to understand the character federalist, the more I sense that you make a VERY big distinction between violent and non-violent crimes. I share that basic perspective, and that is why I tend to be so critical of our modern incarceration rates. I agree that offenders who present direct risks of physical harm to others (and here I include drunk drivers) should be dealt with harshly if/when we have a sound empirical basis to conclude that public safety will be better served by such harsh treatment.

However, lots of people --- probably not the majority, but still lots --- are kept in prison a long time when they are more comparable to Willie Mays Aiken and Susan LeFerve. These are folks who may have made very bad choices at a bad time in their lives, but there are sound empirical bases to be hopeful that they can grow into productive/healthy/law-adibing citizens. Sadly, LeFerve had to escape to prove she was not a risk, and we seem to agree that more robust use of the clemency power could and should give others the second chance that LeFerve had without having to break the law.

This is why, as you know, I keep calling for Prez Obama to get started with clemencies. If you think keeping LeFerve in prison "seemed a bit silly," I wish you would join my calls to encourage Prez Obama to grant clemencies to some of the LeFerve-like drug dealers now in prison for non-violent crimes who, unlike LeFerve, have been following the law by not seeking to escape.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 21, 2009 9:12:32 AM

Honestly, Doug, the topic was Lefever, a woman, who was on the lam for over 30 years. My comment went to that--if that's too "opaque", then fine, but when you make comments about others' credibility, perhaps you ought to take a deep breath and think through what you are saying. (By the way, I am not saying that you should pull your punches--if I say something dumb or ill-advised--let me have it.) I talked about Lefever's "record", which includes her crimes and also when she committed them. Her two crimes were "escape" and heroin dealing over 30 years ago. And so I stand by my original comment that not a lot of people really are going to get worked up about her being released from prison now. I'm guessing that if Willie Mays Aikens somehow escaped from prison and spent 30 years in a crime-free existence most people would just want to leave him alone.

I am not going to call on Obama to do anything. I don't particularly care for the guy, and I doubt he cares about what I have to say. I think that clemency is a tool to correct the necessary injustices that pop up from time to time with harsh laws made necessary by the explosion of criminal activity in this country. And those who pooh-pooh it, think about this, there are many many places in this nation where it is simply unsafe to walk about in broad daylight, and then think that people (including children) actually have to live there.

Once again, Doug, I cannot resist an exposed chin:

"However, lots of people --- probably not the majority, but still lots --- are kept in prison a long time when they are more comparable to Willie Mays Aiken and Susan LeFerve. These are folks who may have made very bad choices at a bad time in their lives, but there are sound empirical bases to be hopeful that they can grow into productive/healthy/law-adibing citizens."

Two questions, Doug, how is clemency supposed to meaningfully deal with the "lots of people"? It's necessarily a very limited tool? Second, how do you determine, a priori, who the not so dangerous people are.

Finally, Doug, certainly a sentencing guru like you knows that the feds many times target the people they incarcerate. A lot of the guys in for "possession" are accomplished criminals with long records.

As for "false victories", say what you want, you got clowned on that thread.

Posted by: federalist | May 21, 2009 10:02:45 AM

Let me answer your two questions, federalist:

1. There are lots of examples of mass clemencies both in the US and in other countries (e.g., I cited to deterrence research from Italy that found interesting recividism rates after that countries "Collective Clemency Bill" that released thousands of prisoners early: http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2009/05/interesting-deterrence-study-out-of-italy-perhaps-providing-a-basis-for-more-clemencies.html). That said, because clemencies are often poorly coordoated and not very transparent, I would prefer an approach similar to the one adopted by the US Sentencing Commission when it lowered crack sentences. From all the reports I have seen, that form of (judicially approved, rule-focused, quasi-clemency) sentence modification seems to be working quite well and it has already reduced the sentences of more than 13,000 federal prisoners (including Willie Mays Aiken).

The point I mean to make was that Willie Mays Aiken and Susan LeFerve are not the only ones who would likely take effective advantage of a second chance. But rather than incentivize folks to escape from prison and have (illegally) prove they will use their second chance wisely, I want to encourage executive branch officials and other policy-makers to look at sound empirical evidence to try to figure out who we should give a second chance.

2. Nobody can perfectly figure out, a priori, who the not so dangerous people are. Indeed, we cannot perfectly figure out, a posteriori, who committed certain crimes. As in all criminal justice areas, I wish we would take a sober and sensible look at empirical evidence and then make more reasoned decisions about how we use take dollars to seek public safety. As you know, I wish we'd spend more of those dollars making our roads safer and less of those dollars locking people up. Notably, now that economic times are lean, states are realizing they can no longer afford the "luxury" of wasting tax dollars on prison beds that do not improve public safety.

Inevitably we are going to let out some people who will prove us mistaken in thinking we could afford to give them a second chance. But we do that all the time with drunk drivers (i.e., we often allow drunk drivers who've not yet hurt anyone back on the road; only after they finally hurt someone, do we usually throw the book at them). But, given that our nation was "conceived in liberty," I think we are truer to our founding principles when we err on the side of liberty when balancing uncertain risks.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 21, 2009 11:14:20 AM

Will wonders never cease. Federalist does not think heroin dealing is "that serious." I wouldn't have expected that opinion from someone with his views. Can we hear more, federalist, about why heroin dealing is not that serious? Wouldn't the presence of heroin dealers in an area contribute to a feeling that "it is simply unsafe to walk about in broad daylight?" Or maybe not - since it's not that serious a crime?

Posted by: observer | May 21, 2009 12:20:41 PM

observer, you're kidding, right. Heroin dealing IS serious. A 35 year old conviction for relatively minor heroin dealing followed a completely (after the escape) law-abiding life is not. You'll note my reaction to the armed robbery case too. I guess because I am not an officious person . . . .

And don't forget, observer, I have many times stated that a prison bed is a scarce resource, and I doubt incarcerating Ms. Lefever was the best use for her prison bed.

Doug, your post is in the spirit of debate, so I will respond in kind.

First, you used the term "clemency power", which pretty much locks you into presidential clemency, but in any event, the crack sentencing "clemency" or the Italian style clemency really isn't designed to get at weeding out the safe to release from the unsafe (concededly the crack sentencing has some of that), but rather to retroactively impose rules to correct a perceived injustice.

Second, this:
"Nobody can perfectly figure out, a priori, who the not so dangerous people are. Indeed, we cannot perfectly figure out, a posteriori, who committed certain crimes."

is pure sophistry. Yes lightning strikes and some innocent people (e.g., Kirk Bloodworth) get screwed in our system. But there is simply no comparison between the reality that in a human system that some people are going to be royally screwed and the certainty that lenient penalties on criminal behavior will result in entirely preventable deaths. For example, look at Skillicorn--maybe some people would be alive today had he not been on parole for murder. And this is an example repeated thousands of times in America.

Your call for a "sober and sensible look" merits a good deal of criticism. Tough on crime policies have made our cities a lot safer, and even the liberal side acknowledges that. And the idea that locking criminals up prevents crime is basic common sense. Now, in a regime of draconian penalties, you are going to get situations where most people would agree that the punishment was too harsh, and clemency should be available to deal with that. But we cannot allow a few instances of sympathetic cases blind us to the benefits of incarcerating criminals. I feel that your "serious and sober" look is an attempt to do just that.

Posted by: federalist | May 21, 2009 1:11:16 PM

Federalist: I'm not kidding at all, just trying to follow the twisting paths of your logic. In your 6:51:21 post, you opined that LeFevre's crime (heroin dealing) was not "that serious." In your most recent post, you say "Heroin dealing IS serious." But in the very next sentence, you characterize Ms. LeFevre's crime as "relatively minor heroin dealing," apparently making it, if I can follow your logic, not "that serious." I am truly curious (i.e., not just kidding) as to how you distinguish relatively minor heroin dealing (a not that serious offense) from regular heroin dealing (a serious offense). Is it the amount of drug involved? Is it who it is that is doing the dealing? Something else?

Posted by: observer | May 21, 2009 1:58:51 PM

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, although I doubt that your questions are seriously designed to advance debate.

What you miss is the obvious context of this whole discussion. Heroin dealing is a serious crime and needs to be punished. A 30-odd years old heroin dealing conviction and escape is not. With respect to what we do with fugitives who have been on the lam for decades, a crime like heroin dealing isn't serious in the context of what should be done to them.

Got it? Or are we really going to ignore the differences between the issues presented by people who are caught dealing heroin now and people in the situation of Ms. Lefevre? If you think we should, then say so. But I don't see how my logic is at all twisted, and I don't think it schizophrenic not to care about 35 year old convictions for peddling heroin while caring about current dealers. Think of it as my own statute of limitations.

Posted by: federalist | May 21, 2009 2:45:31 PM

I am not surprised to discover, federalist, that you are confusing others with your tendency to be imprecise with your own words and then to draw improper inferences about the precise words of others. Ah well, I will try again to see if I can gain insight from what your WWF comic book character is saying now.

This time around, you stress "the certainty that lenient penalties on criminal behavior will result in entirely preventable deaths." Right, like all the lenient penalties on drunk drivers I stress that result in more preventable deaths than all other crimes combined. I am not sure that many intra-family homicides or known-offender argument-oriented homicides are readily prevented, and there are only a few thousand other violent intentional homicides each year (BJS data is here: http://www.ojp.gov/bjs/homicide/overview.htm). But there are well over 10,000 drunk driving homicides each year (not to mention another 30,000 other driving fatalities).

I agree that we "cannot allow a few instances of sympathetic cases blind us to the benefits of incarcerating criminals." But we also should not let a few instances of repeat killings (like Skillicorn) blind us to the costs of incarcerating too many criminals (particularly those who have not been previously violent) for too long at great economic expense.

Lots of your claims seem based in the notion that nearly all persons currently incarcerationed are violent offenders whose release will imperil us all. But can you point to actualy DATA showing the "Skillicorn example repeated thousands of times in America"? (Notably, there is data showing the Kirk Bloodworth problem being repeated thousands of times --- some data suggest at least a 1% false conviction rate (which still means we are right 99% of the time, but also means there are 20,000+ innocent people in prison and jail and 10,000 wrongful felony convictions every year).

I sense we share a concern for public safety, but my instinct is to err on the side of liberty (and taxpayer cost savings) when we have to make hard and uncertain calls about public safety. it seems your instinct is to err on the side of safety first. Your choice is certainly senisble and is well reflected in most modern public policy.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 21, 2009 3:22:39 PM

Ohwilleke wonders about time off for good behavior from 1976. If my old sourcebook is correct, she could have gotten 1,314 days off her 10 years for "good time," and an additional 50% more as "special good time" off. Assuming whe would have received both, as was customary, that would have knocked off about 5.4 years, but she still would have had to serve about four years and seven months before being eligible for parole. Lots of my clients were in that pickle, and I think it unfair to those who served their sentences that she didn't have serve hers. Furthermore, she had a good appellate issue regarding the local practice from that county of requiring all convicted of dealing heroin to serve at least 10 years, though the statute made no such requirement.

Posted by: Greg Jones | May 21, 2009 3:24:09 PM

Doug, are you on that bandwagon? Good grief. I guess context doesn't mean a whole lot to you guys. I would think that you could, in the context of a three decades old conviction, call heroin dealing not serious (it doesn't appear that she was a kingpin), without worrying that people will jump to conclusions about what I think of heroin dealing generally. Guys, in this context, the crime is not serious--do you disagree?

1) Doug, I don't know why you direct your drunk driving jihad against me. You and I largely agree. I'm not sure all of your proposals are doable, but, like I said, you and I are generally on the same page. Perhaps you are trying to make the point that the system is too nice to drunk drivers so therefore it should be nicer to other criminals--well, criminals arent entitled to point to other criminals and argue some cosmic fairness entitles them to lenience.

2) Doug, the dangers of letting violent criminals out after lenient sentences are well-documented. It certainly increases crime (as well as false convictions too, if you think about it). You can look up any number of posts at C & C which have citations to recidivism studies or which have critiques of the over-incarceration claims.

3) You write: "Lots of your claims seem based in the notion that nearly all persons currently incarcerationed are violent offenders whose release will imperil us all." No. I have repeatedly and clearly stated otherwise. And this is not the first time you have mischaracterized my position. Let's take a hypo. Let's say we have 50,000 people incarcerated for crime X. Let's say that of those people, 10% would get out and reoffend, and 1% would commit a serious crime (forcible rape, armed robbery, murder, drunk driving). My point has always been that since you dont know who is going to reoffend, you have to be extremely careful on where you set sentences and whom you release on parole. Is 500 serious crimes worth the freedom of 50K offenders? That's my question. I NEVER EVER say that there aren't people we could release who would be fine. My issue is figuring out who they may be. Since clemency involves a look at specific issues of safety, I don't have a problem with a judicious use of clemency and have repeatedly said so.

Where this comes in at the front end, i.e., when we set sentences for specific crimes is that the offenders will get out. So let's take the real Duke rape case where the offender got four years for two forcible rapes. Let's assume for a second (an overly simplistic example, but which works) that's where we set the penalty for forcible rape. Four years. Yes, we'd have more liberty for rapists, but how much less liberty for society for all of the rapes that would be prevented if the punishment were say, 30 years. I'm sure that there are rapists who, after 4 years in the joint would get the message and would not rape again, but how many additional rape victims should we tolerate for this?

I get that you consider crack offenses "non-violent". But how many violent offenders were nailed with the crack charge? That you don't know. But we do know that releasing criminals increases crime--one would think that you would therefore take the burden of showing that there are no public safety benefits to releasing large numbers of criminals.

Posted by: federalist | May 21, 2009 4:22:32 PM

Federalist,

So you are okay with the current set up of using the easy to prove charge (crack) as a proxy for harder to prove crimes? You might be okay with that but I would prefer the government be forced to prove at least to preponderance that a given individual committed the more serious offense and would in fact be glad if they were force to prove the more serious offense BRD.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 21, 2009 4:57:18 PM

SH, Al Capone was nailed on tax-evasion charges. I have zero issues with nailing a guy who is arrested for knocking over an old lady and is found with some rock getting a federal 5 year mandatory minimum.

Posted by: federalist | May 21, 2009 5:16:14 PM

Federalist's logic keeps getting more and more bizarre. Now heroin dealing is not serious if, after the fact of the heroin dealing, you successfully execute a prison escape (a crime of violence by definition)and then live a crime-free life for a long time until finally brought to justice. If federalist were a criminal defense lawyer, I guess he'd argue at his heroin-dealing client's sentencing that his client is planning to escape as soon as he is sentenced and thereafter lead a law-abiding life, so the judge should just give a lenient sentence to begin with.

Posted by: observer#2 | May 21, 2009 6:40:43 PM

"Guys, in this context, the crime is not serious--do you disagree?"

Interesting thread. My reaction is yes, I disagree. You seems to be suggesting that the passage of time dilutes or diminishes the seriousness of the crime and I don't see why that should be so. This is especially so in this case because of her escape from prison. To me, that compounds the seriousness of her original crime because it suggests that she didn't take it seriously at all. And then there is her misconduct in prison. All of this suggests to me that we have a person here who doesn't respect the limits that society places on its members as part of the social contract. Viewed in that light, her drug dealing crime takes upon a much more ominous character with the passing of time, not less.

Posted by: Daniel | May 21, 2009 6:47:24 PM

Federalist: Your logic is getting more and more strained. Now, in order to decide whether an offense is serious, one must look into the future to see whether the offender is going to escape from prison and then lead a law-abiding life. If so, the offense becomes less serious.

And this isn't "missing the point" of your argument for a lenient sentence for Ms. LeFevre. Remember, one of the bases for your argument was that her original offense was not "that serious." As you said, if her original offense had been murder, your view would be different. This seems to suggest you do think the original crime - and not just what happens later - is significant when assessing punishment for someone who escapes from prison (a crime of violence, by the way)and then leads a law-abiding life.

I do agree that murder is more serious than heroin dealing. I just can't accept your premise that the original crime is rendered less serious by what happens down the road.

Posted by: observer#2 | May 21, 2009 6:58:40 PM

That was an incredibly long time to serve for a drug conviction. There are people that murder that spend less time in prison. It just doesn't seem justified.

Posted by: Ajlouny | May 25, 2009 5:31:47 PM

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