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February 7, 2012

You be the judge: what sentence would you impose on 15-year-old child killer?

A state sentencing proceeding in Missouri is (justifiably?) garnering lots of attention because the teenage defendant's crime was so brutal and senseless.  This new AP article about the sentencing hearing, headlined "Prosecutors: Prozac no defense for Mo. teen killer," provides many of the basics:

Prosecutors trying to debunk a key defense theory about why a Missouri teenager killed a 9-year-old neighbor girl relied on the testimony Tuesday from a psychiatrist who said an antidepressant drug played no role in the teen's decision to murder.

Dr. Anthony Rothschild was the main prosecution witness in the second day of the sentencing hearing for Alyssa Bustamante, who has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Elizabeth Olten in a small town just west of Jefferson City.

The young girl was stabbed, strangled and had her throat cut before being buried in a grave that Bustamante admitted she dug before the October 2009 murder. Bustamante, who recently turned 18, was 15 at the time of the crimes and is being sentenced as an adult. She faces a possible sentence of 10 years to life with possibility of parole.

Bustamante's defense attorneys have attempted to build a case that her troubled childhood and the increased dosage of the antidepressant Prozac heightened her mood swings and made her more prone to violence in the weeks leading up to Elizabeth's murder.

But Rothschild said it was "nonsense" to try to suggest that Bustamante was taking too much Prozac, which he said had been proven to decrease hostility and anger in people who like Bustamante suffer from major depression and a borderline personality disorder....

Also during testimony Monday, Bustamante's grandmother described how the teen had tried to commit suicide on Labor Day 2007 by swallowing a large bottle of Tylenol pills and slicing herself hundreds of times _ even carving the words "hate" and "pain" into her arms. On Tuesday, defense witnesses recounted Bustamante's long history with cutting herself, which was first noticed at the start of her eighth grade year in the Jefferson City school district....

Prosecutors have emphasized the deliberate nature of Bustamante's actions and downplayed any impact from Prozac. They noted that Bustamante dug a hole for a potential grave several days in advance, and on the evening of the killing, sent her younger sister to lure Elizabeth outside with an invitation to play.

They cited Bustamante's written words against her to urge a long prison sentence. In a journal entry on the night of the killing, Bustamante described the slaying of Elizabeth with a sense of exhilaration, using texting-style acronyms.  "I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they're dead," Bustamante wrote in her journal, which was read in court by a handwriting expert. "I don't know how to feel atm. It was ahmazing.  As soon as you get over the `ohmygawd I can't do this' feeling, it's pretty enjoyable.  I'm kinda nervous and shaky though right now. Kay, I gotta go to church now...lol."

Deeply disturbed seems like an insufficient adjective to describe this defendant.  But, of course, the state sentencing judge here does not need to conjure up a proper adjective for the defendant, he needs to impose a sentence in accord with Missouri law.  A quick look at Missouri's applicable sentencing statute seems merely to instruct the judge here to "decide the extent or duration of sentence or other disposition to be imposed under all the circumstances, having regard to the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and character of the defendant and render judgment accordingly."  In light of this vague instruction, I wonder what readers of this blog would select as a sentence in this horrific case.

UPDATE:  This new piece reports on the sentencing outcome in this case:

A central Missouri teenager who confessed to strangling, cutting and stabbing a 9-year-old girl because she wanted to know how it felt to kill someone was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Alyssa Bustamante, 18, pleaded guilty in January to second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the October 2009 slaying of Elizabeth Olten in St. Martins, a small rural town west of Jefferson City.  Bustamante had been charged with first-degree murder and by pleading guilty to the lesser charges she avoided a trial and the possibility of spending her life in an adult prison with no chance of release.

February 7, 2012 at 06:55 PM | Permalink

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"Deeply disturbed seems like an insufficient adjective to describe this defendant."

And "still dead" seems like an insufficient adjective to describe this victim.

I wonder what it felt like being a nine year-old being attacked and getting your throat slit by a person to whom you had done no harm and against whom you had no chance.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 7, 2012 7:40:27 PM

LWOP.

Posted by: The Death Penalty Sucks. | Feb 7, 2012 8:01:26 PM

Jury? What's a jury? What are those for?

I don't know if Missouri law allows it but if I could, I would give it to the jury to decide. They heard the case in its entirety, let the facts and their own consciences guide them.

Posted by: Jardinero1 | Feb 7, 2012 8:23:08 PM

Insane asylum. She is too dangerous for prison.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 7, 2012 8:23:50 PM

"Deeply disturbed seems like an insufficient adjective to describe this defendant."

No. Ice cold, skilled thrill killer. Come on. We are not children here.

""I strangled them and slit their throat and stabbed them now they're dead,"

Only the pro-criminal, biased, self-dealing lawyer would wonder about the remedy.

First, she should be water boarded around the clock, until she has revealed all her other victims. The defendant should then be summarily executed. Instead of justice, she will be kept alive to generate massive government make work for years in the Twilight Zone world of the lawyer.

The defense attorney should be caned for bringing up a false defense in bad faith, and seeking to fool the court and the jury. This attorney should be banned permanently, from all other criminal courts.

If she was charged with other crimes prior to this event, and after age 14, the lawyers responsible for her being on the street should be sued for the wrongful, and highly foreseeable death of the victim, including all defense lawyers, all judges, all probation officials who loosed this vicious, heartless, inhuman predator. To deter.

Since these pro-criminal, biased, heartless lawyers have absolute immunity, that is self-dealt, the family and friends of the victim have every moral, intellectual, and policy justification to hunt them down, beat their asses and kneecap them. These self-dealt immunities have no validity or rationality save at the point of a gun. These lawyers control the police. And their guns are the sole validation for the misconduct of these lawyers. Kneecap to deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 7, 2012 9:21:15 PM

Anti-depressants don't make you want to kill someone for the feeling of exhilaration. I don't think this kid should ever be free again, but I would leave the door open by making her parole eligible in 20 or so years. Awful case.

Posted by: Thinkaboutit | Feb 7, 2012 9:41:23 PM

"I would leave the door open by making her parole eligible in 20 or so years. Awful case."

Twenty years from now she will be around 38. She's an obvious sociopath, and that's not going to change. This is not the kind of case where we should be rolling the dice two decades down the line. She can a have a meaningful life in prison. Leave her there to live out her days. That's where she belongs.

Posted by: The Death Penalty Sucks. | Feb 7, 2012 10:35:00 PM

TDPS: What about her future victims in prison? You are heartless. Most will have dark skins. So you do not care.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 7, 2012 10:55:33 PM

The victim suffered unspeakable horrors. Outrage at the young killer and her crime is understandable.

The killer was 15. 15-year-olds are not adults. In Roper v. Simmons, the Supreme Court recognized the "diminished culpability" of 15-year-olds, and the Court noted that "[y]outh is ... a chronological fact."

While LWOP sentences are appropriate for some adults, they are not appropriate for juveniles.

This juvenile killer should be sentenced as a juvenile, because she was a juvenile when she committed her crime. She should not be sentenced as an adult, because she was not an adult when she committed her crime.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 8, 2012 12:11:56 AM

sorry CCDC in this case NO. MURDER is an ADULT CRIME that calls for an ADULT punishment.

If this had been some type of accident....MAYBE....but it wasn't

even if she could be fixed at some point down the road. What is gonna happen.

A NORMAL person will realize they KILLED INNOCENT CHILDREN....whoops right back into the lunnie bin!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 8, 2012 1:35:27 AM

I think the following more than adequately supports the defense argument of the likely significant role of Prozac in the behavior of this child. I concur with CCDC that she should be tried and sentenced as a juvenile, receive the medical care she needs now and into the future, in a secure environment with review.

1986 SAFETY REVIEW WARNED OF PROZAC'S DANGERS

Another document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, dated March 23, 1986, is a safety review of Prozac by the FDA's Richard Kapit, who observed that "fluoxetine [Prozac] may exacerbate certain depressive symptoms and signs."

Kapit, a medical doctor, noted, "Certain clinical risks of mild to moderate severity did appear to be associated with the use of fluoxetine, as determined by a review of the safety data in this NDA (2) submission. These potential risks include intensification of the vegetative (3) signs and symptoms of depression."

The 1986 FDA safety review also discovered that Lilly had failed to report information about the onset of psychotic episodes in people during Prozac's testing. No action was taken against the drug maker, however.

Kapit concluded his safety review with this warning: "It is suggested that labeling be developed which advises physicians about possible exacerbation of the vegetative manifestations of depressive illness.... If the drug is marketed, post-marketing studies should be required to assess more precisely the severity of these potential risks."

As early as 1986, in other words, long before Prozac was approved for public consumption, evidence existed which linked Prozac to worsened symptoms of depression and the onset of psychotic episodes - a fact underscored by the 1,089 suicides as of September 16, 1993, along with many episodes of senseless violence, homicide and even multiple murder.

Despite these deaths and Kapit's warning, today's Prozac bottle fails to carry an adequate warning of the drug's dangers.

The FDA had another opportunity to act in the public interest in September 1991, when its Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee held a hearing to review evidence showing links between Prozac and similar psychiatric drugs and psychotic, violent acts.

For over three hours, more than two dozen Prozac victims or their surviving family members recounted horror stories linking the drug to multiple murders, suicide, attempted suicide, self-mutilation, psychosis and other nightmarish effects.

The committee, however, ignored this information and voted against this information and voted against relabeling Prozac to carry a proper warning of its dangers. (Linked on my name)

Posted by: peter | Feb 8, 2012 4:46:50 AM

CCDC: For the past 100,000 years of human history and across the globe, adulthood is defined as the ability to reproduce. That has been the age of puberty, 14. That is a clear landmark of development. Nothing happens at 18 that doesn't happen at 40 or 60. Add the 18 year old age of majority to the long list of lawyer fictitious doctrines. We all live in the upside down lawyer Twilight Zone, and it is a waking nightmare for the public.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 8, 2012 6:22:21 AM

Sentence her to compulsory reading of posts by CCDC, over and over. Oh wait, they're allt eh same anyway. Regardless, upon such agony being inflicted she is sure to go impose an appropriate sentence on herself.

Posted by: Rich Mantei | Feb 8, 2012 8:37:38 AM

Thank you, Peter for the information about the effect of Prozac, none of which the news article or Doug's posting provided. The prosecutor's remarks is a call to indulge the passions fired by the brutality the victim suffered, not a reasoned answer to the impact Prozac can have on people. I lived with a man suffering clinical depression in the mid-1990s whose condition worsened horribly when he began taking it -- and he was a 6'2" mand in his mid-40s. The prosecutor's reported remarks don't comrpise an answer to the possible role of prozac on her behavior, it constitues a call to freaking dismiss the altogether likely possibility that this defendant was seriously impaired by a drug because dammit, that's no excuse for killin'. Doug, these "how would you vote punishment" posts you keep offering with such incomplete/lopsided "facts" don't promote meaningful discourse and painfully contradict what is otherwise an excellent blog for following developing sentencing law.

Posted by: anon | Feb 8, 2012 9:45:53 AM

Hey anon: As peter and others show, commentors can (and should) use the comments to fill out the facts as they see fit to enhance the discourse. In these posts, anon, I merely report what the media is saying about these cases because I am not "on the scene" and do not have the time (or the inclination) to do in-depth research for cases of this nature (which tend to be high-profile and low-impact in various ways). And I do this kind of post periodically because I want to see how the readership of this blog reacts to these kinds of cases AS REPORTED IN THE MEDIA.

Moreover, notwithstanding the (too common and predictable) vitriol that (too often) comes from a few frequent commentors, I think the discourse in the comments here has been meaningful. One commentor intriguingly suggested this case calls for jury sentencing, another few suggest LWOP, while still others think life WITH parole is justified. (That is what she got, and it will be interesting in, say, the year 2035 whether and how this defendant makes her case for parole a quarter-century after her horrible crime.)

I also find interesting the telling tendency of Supremecy Claus to throw off science and go with history when it serves his curious world-view. All modern brain science indicates, in term of mental functioning (and thus culpability and riskiness), that age 14 is VERY different than 18 which is itself very different than 40 and 60. And yet, rather than stress the importance of brain science, SC here wants to stress (dated) biology and human history to assert that ability to reproduce (which, of course, occurs at different times for different kids) should be the marker for adulthood for criminal responsibility.

Along those lines and based on the same logic, I cannot help but wonder if SC --- or any other eager for young teens to get adult treatment in criminal courts --- wants 14-year-olds (or younger if/when a he hits puberty) to be allowed to drive, drink, vote and go to war. (For the record, I do favor letting younger kids vote, but I think the other activities are extra risky if done by kids unless/until adults are providing regulatory structures for these activities.)

Posted by: Doug B.. | Feb 8, 2012 11:22:45 AM

Does anybody know - when she will be eligible for parole, and whether she will be housed (initially) at a juvenile or adult facility?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 8, 2012 11:40:13 AM

She's an adult now, so she will go to an adult facility.

Posted by: Ala JD | Feb 8, 2012 11:59:33 AM

Am I to understand that the first time her situation will be looked at is 10 years from now? "10 years to life"

I do not think that the fact someone did something heinous at 15 means they are lost for life. The brain evidence etc. cited underlines the point. So some long prison term with chance of parole seems about right.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 8, 2012 12:39:42 PM

CCDC: Am I correct that your view is that if under Missouri law juvenile/youthful offenders can be held only until the age of 21, the maximum legally appropriate (and perhaps maximum constutionally permissible) sentence for this defendant is "hold until 21 and then release?"

Posted by: guest | Feb 8, 2012 1:04:31 PM

Having read Peter's unfortunately typical uncritical regurgitation of something he found on the internet that confirms his already-formed views (Prozac causes psychosis; therefore this defendant probably ("likely") had psychosis and is not fully responsible for her actions because of Prozac; therefore "I concur with CCDC that she should be tried and sentenced as a juvenile"), I have a question for anyone knowledgeable on the subject of psychiatry/psychopharmacology, which I'm not:

On the basis of what is in the article, is there a reason to believe that this person was suffering from psychosis when she committed the murder, much less that she did not know what she was doing or that it was wrong? If it is correct that she (a) planned the killing (and an attempt to conceal the killing) in advance by digging a shallow grave a few days earlier and by recruiting her sister as an unknowing accomplice to lure the victim to the defendant's house by inviting her to come over and play and then (b) memorialized the killing as something she had planned to do, just because she wanted to see what it would be like, does that reasonably support the thesis that she was having a psychotic episode when she committed the killing? And is there any basis at all to question whether she understood what she was doing and that it was wrong?

Posted by: guest | Feb 8, 2012 1:18:58 PM

There are two categories of provocations here. I would adjust the extent to which she is held accountable for her age and level of maturity. Accountability is fixed. Then separately I would assess her level of risk periodically and respond accordingly. Risk is changeable. The most restrictive level of restraint imposed for either should control at any given point in time.

The current social control paradigm is so oversimplified that it unworkable.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Feb 8, 2012 1:22:30 PM

Prof B stated: "All modern brain science indicates, in term of mental functioning (and thus culpability and riskiness), that age 14 is VERY different than 18 which is itself very different than 40 and 60. And yet, rather than stress the importance of brain science, SC here wants to stress (dated) biology and human history to assert that ability to reproduce (which, of course, occurs at different times for different kids) should be the marker for adulthood for criminal responsibility."

Interesting, but I think you are missing the point. Yes, there is a difference in the brain development bewteen 15 and 18. However, most of the research you are referring to discusses a teen's ability to control impulses and make decisions. These are only tangentially related to this case. It was not an impulse decision, it was a well-thought out, pre-meditated, and planned murder. The more relevant brain science to this case is the ability to tell right from wrong. Studies in this field have shown that infants have empathy and babies as young as 1 will try to console others. At the age of 6 or 7, they make moral judgments based upon the damage done. At 8, they understand that retaliation is wrong. By 15, she definitely had the same tools as an "adult" to know that what she was doing was wrong. In fact, I would claim that a child has a BETTER understanding of right and wrong because they have not been poisened by moral relativism and "shades of gray." Have you ever met an 8 year old that thought it was OK to steal? Even if they did steal, they felt shame. I have not but have met countless adults who felt stealing is no big deal.

Despite that, she chose (in a manner that cannot even be described as within 1000 miles of "impulsive") to murder the 9 year old girl. Strictly on the basis of brain science, she is as culpable as I would be.

Now, research has also shown that pi$$poor parents can screw up the sense of right and wrong. That, in my opinion, would at least be a legitimate debate it it were the case.

"The principle cause of delinquent children is delinquent parents. Almighty God has given children to the parents as so much clay to be molded according to the Divine Image. When a child is born, a crown is made for it in heaven; woe to those parents if that crown is eternally unused." Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 8, 2012 1:29:44 PM

I notice that peter does not name the source for his report, nor link to it. As I read the report, it became obvious that it is not written by a neutral party. It seems to have been written by one of three possible sources: (1) a competing drug company, (2) a group hired by a law firm suing the maker of Prozac, or (3) a criminal defense attorney who previously represented a client who wanted to present the "It-was-all-Prozac's-fault" defense. Knowing the source always counts in determining reliability, but peter tucks it behind the curtain.

I also noticed that the report is significantly dated. Most of the items referenced were 1986; the most recent was 1993, almost 20 years ago, well before the defendant was born, much less taking the drug.

More generally, it's right in line with peter's unbreakably indulgent attitude toward crime and criminals to blame a drug EXCLUSIVELY, and never so much as mention any human agency such as will, curiousity (to see what it was like to kill someone, as the defendant said), domination, or sadism.

Nor do peter or the from-on-high remarks of anon evince a whit of curiosity about why the defendant chose a nine year-old for a victim.

Q: Why not a nineteen year-old?

A: Because a nineteen year-old will fight back.

Q: And what does that tell you?

A: That she chose her victim.

Q: And what does THAT tell you?

A: That she had a significant measure of self-control.

Q: And what does THAT tell you?

A. That, out of compassion, we should be rooting for her parole in 2082. Anyone who thinks Little Miss Wonderful will be safe before then is welcome to invite her to come live in their house with their nine year-old.

Any takers?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2012 1:31:41 PM

I should add that guest's comment shows in greater detail than I just did that the defendant exercised self-control, and that the notion that the murder was a psychotic episode is almost certainly fanciful. Particulary devastating is the fact that the defendant DUG THE VICTIM'S GRAVE SEVERAL DAYS BEFORE THE MURDER.

Wake up, people. The idea that evil exists only in adults is very appealing and very false.

(Is it still permissible to use the word "evil" in connecting with slitting a child's throat to see what it feels like? Just wanted to check on that).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2012 1:40:48 PM

Guest:

Perhaps.

I don't know all the facts of this case. I don't know how profoundly mentally disturbed this girl is; I assume she is. Her mental illness may be such that she should be subjected to an involuntary civil commitment following any penal/juvenile incarceration.

In California, there used to be a mechanism for holding serious juvenile offenders in CYA (the California Youth Authority) until the age of 25.

I don't have any idea what Missouri law is concerning its imprisonment of its juvenile offenders.

States can and should craft laws to deal with juvenile offenders who commit horrible crimes. In doing so, however, they don't need to resort to fiction by classifying juveniles as adults. A 15-year-old is not an adult, regardless of whether a State like Missouri says a juvenile is an adult for sentencing purposes.

No matter how serious the crime of a 13-year-old, a 14-year-old, or a 15-year-old, a young teen should not, in my opinion, be put in prison with 30-year-olds.

Juvenile offenders should be housed with other juvenile offenders. Some effort should be made to provide juvenile offenders with education and treatment, if possible.

Like any offender, a juvenile offender should not be incarcerated for longer than the maximum allowed by the applicable state law.

What is the maximum sentence allowed under Missouri law for a murder committed by a juvenile who is not treated as an adult?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 8, 2012 1:45:59 PM

TarlsQtr --

Thank you for fleshing out in commendable detail what I'll just summarize in one sentence: The notion that a 15 year-old doesn't know it's wrong to slit the throat of a little child is preposterous.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2012 1:51:47 PM

Rich Mantei --

I like the spirit of your suggestion, but I cannot subscribe to any proposed sentence that would so obviously violate the Eighth Amendment.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2012 1:57:09 PM

Bill,

I would point out that Peter's article originally came from:

The above articles were reprinted (with permission) from the Nov/Dec 1993 issue of FREEDOM, the magazine of the Church of Scientology, International

CoS has an unofficial policy of not allowing prescription medication and do not recognize many mainstream diseases like autism (See the death of John Travolta's son). They believe that sickness comes from a lack of devotion to their church.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 8, 2012 1:57:55 PM

TarlsQtr --

UDAMAN!!!

I love it. The "we-must-be-enlightened" peter quotes a 1993 article from the CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY and then admonishes the rest of us for failing to keep of with pharmacology.

That's just beautiful.

No wonder he blacked out the source.

Hey anon, you wanna reconsider signing on to peter's voodoo?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2012 2:08:31 PM

The issue, CCDC, is risk allocation. Even assuming that you are right--the fact is that we cannot know the risk, and therefore, society has a right to choose, in the case of heinous crimes, to resolve dobuts against the criminal.

If we had a crystal ball, things would be easier. But we don't. And the ambiguities caused by the lack of a crystal ball should be resolved against the criminal.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 8, 2012 2:22:32 PM

CCDC: I appreciate your response, although I'm not sure I understand it. I wasn't talking about imprisoning a 15 or 16-year-old murderer in the same prison as 30-year-old murderers; I was just talking about what happens when they reach the age of 18 (or 21 or 25).

Here's what I don't understand:

"In California, there used to be a mechanism for holding serious juvenile offenders in CYA (the California Youth Authority) until the age of 25.

. . . .

States can and should craft laws to deal with juvenile offenders who commit horrible crimes. In doing so, however, they don't need to resort to fiction by classifying juveniles as adults. A 15-year-old is not an adult, regardless of whether a State like Missouri says a juvenile is an adult for sentencing purposes."

....................................

Okay, so assuming that Missouri's law is the same as California's used to be (I don't know whether it is or isn't either), am I correct that your position is "then the maximum legally appropriate/constitutionally permissible sentence for this person would be 'incarceration until 25 and then release'," and that the answer would be the same even if she had, in separate attacks on different days, also killed multiple other neighbors' children with premeditation?

And as far as the legal fiction of treating juvenile offenders as if they were 18, what if a state had a system that said "offenders younger than 18 at the time of the alleged offense must be tried in juvenile court; but notwithstanding any other provision of law the juvenile court must sentence the offender to incarceration for at least 10, but no more than 25, years of imprisonment in cases of forcible rape or murder without premeditation, and must sentence the offender to either lifetime imprisonment with parole eligibility in 25 years or LWOP in cases of murder"? Would you agree that a law like that would be constitutional (and should be held to be constitutional)?

What if the law provided that all offenders younger than 18 must be tried in juvenile court but that, notwithstanding any other provision of law, the maximum sentences for rape and homicide cases are the same as would apply if the offender were an adult, except no death penalty, no LWOP for non-homicide crimes, and no LWOP for homcide crimes in which the offender was an accomplice or coconspirator but not a principal? (What I'm getting at is that I take it that your objection isn't just to the "legal fiction" that allows them to be tried in adult court, but to the idea that offenders under 18 can be subject to adult-type sentences, even for the worst and most obviously-premeditated crimes.)

One other question, in terms of the laws states you think states ought to be allowed to craft for the serious offenses committed by youthful offenders: what if under Missouri law the sentence was simply "detention until 25, with indefinite detention thereafter, unless and until the defendant can demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, that he or she will not commit additional crimes or constitute a danger to others," if the likely (but not foreordained) consequence will be that this person never gets out? Do you think a sentence like that, if allowed under state law, should be considered constitutional? Advisable in a case like this one?

Posted by: guest | Feb 8, 2012 2:26:00 PM

@ Bill and Tarls:

"The 'we-must-be-enlightened' peter quotes a 1993 article from the CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY and then admonishes the rest of us for failing to keep of with pharmacology."

I don't see why the source or its objective reliability (or even whether if, even taking it at face value, it supports Peter's thesis) matter. Someone wrote it; it's on the interwebs and capable of being found by google; and it confirms what Peter is already disposed to believe to be true: that the killing is at least in substantial measure not "this child's" fault but Prozac's. What else is there?

Posted by: guest | Feb 8, 2012 3:19:25 PM

well guess if it was a REAL STUDY i'm sure considering the billions the drug companies are making via the drug you would find 100's of competing reports plus of couse 100's of reports to REBUT those reports. but to accept anything from the so-called church of socientology about almost anything involving SCIENCE is about as nutty as accepting this woman's excuce for murder!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 8, 2012 3:35:04 PM

guest --

"What else is there?"

Whether it's true.

And in assessing its truth, the source matters. Thus, in trying to find out the facts of the Troy Davis case, for example, it's best to know whether the source you're looking at is the summary presented by, say, DPIC or Amnesty International (on the one hand), or the district court's 172-page findings and order (on the other).

When someone is being opaque about their source, watch your wallet -- and the conclusions they would like readers to believe. Peter knew exactly what he was doing when he omitted the words, "Church of Scientology" from the body of his comment.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2012 3:48:44 PM

Guest -

It is difficult for me to conceive of an LWOP sentence for a juvenile that wouldn't violate the 8th Amendment -- in my book.

Your sense is correct. I object not only to invocation of the legal fiction, but also to the effect, i.e., adult sentences, that results from application of the legal fiction.

If a law were crafted that provided for the continued incarceration and treatment of a juvenile offender, when he/she reaches age 18, 21, or 25, the law would probably be permissible if the State was able to show that the release of the offender would pose a risk to society, and if such a showing only resulted in limited additional incapacitation. At the end of that additional period, the State could seek a further extension.

I think the Supreme Court upheld a similar scheme for "sexually violent predators" in Kansas v. Hendricks. (I think that's the case.)

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 8, 2012 4:17:02 PM

Bill - 1. I did not hide the source of the article .. I stated clearly that the source was linked from my name. 2. the article publishes the facts resulting from requests for information from the FDA. Are you claiming these facts are false or misleading?
Of course, Prozac and similar drugs apparently have positive and useful results with some, and maybe most patients (though a recently published study suggests not). However, equally, there will be those patients who will develop side effects. It might be expected that children and young people could be more susceptible to these. My reference to the article, drawing attention to the possibility of an adverse effect of the taking of Prozac, was an attempt to counter the usual dross from some regulars on this board who apparently find it impossible to consider any form of mitigation, any possibility of error, whenever murder is the subject. I am happy for you and others to be critical of any sources I reference, but it would be nice that you took the trouble to find evidence that they are wrong before blowing your own trumpet, and denigrating my efforts to bring balance to the discussion. In this case, the source article was merely an intermediary media on information provided by the FDA. You may find the dangers acceptable, others do not. Either way, the dangers clearly exist and MAY have been a contributory factor in this child's behavior. That she has a clinical problem is undisputed or she wouldn't have been taking Prozac in the first place.

Posted by: peter | Feb 8, 2012 4:27:22 PM

Calif. Capital Defense Counsel

"If a law was crafted..."

California did have such a statute. It was part of the Youth Authority Act (see Section 1700, Welfare and Institutions Code). It worked well. Cases had to be reviewed by the court at two year intervals when they were extended due to risk. I remember it well, having testified in such cases several times.

Posted by: Tom McGee | Feb 8, 2012 4:49:51 PM

"That she has a clinical problem is undisputed or she wouldn't have been taking Prozac in the first place."

I assume that's the case, and I assume further that most people who kill other people (particularly for non-reasons such as "just wanted to know what it was like to kill someone and watch them die") aren't like most people simply because most people don't kill other people; although I don't accept that the simple fact that the killing was committed proves that the killer lacked the full capacity to ocmmit it.

Now, what basis is there to believe that this particular person was experiencing a psychotic episode at the time of the killing, given the facts that the killing was planned and premeditated (the digging of the shallow grave; the use of the younger sister to lure the victim to her death) and then immediately memorialized as planned and thrilling, much less that the killer couldn't understand what she was doing (killing the neighbors' nine-year-old daughter) or that it was wrong?

Posted by: guest | Feb 8, 2012 4:51:38 PM

"It might be expected that children and young people could be more susceptible to these."

"Might be expected" that children and young people "could be" more susceptible? By all means, then, no need for actual evidence or facts about whether adolescents *are* more susceptible as a group, or whether -- "more susceptible" or not -- this particular individual was experiencing psychosis. You already evidently have all you need to uncritically credit this article as "more than adequately support[ing] the defense argument of the likely significant role of Prozac" in this person's premeditated decision to murder her nine-year-old neighbor to see what it felt like to kill her and watch her die. I really hope you're not a judge in the UK (or anywhere else).

". . . . an attempt to counter the usual dross from some regulars on this board who apparently find it impossible to consider any form of mitigation, any possibility of error, whenever murder is the subject."

Can't speak for anyone else, but I don't find it impossible to "consider any form of mitigation, any possible of error" in murder cases. On the other hand, I don't find it impossible to credit uncritically as valid almost every possible argument for mitigation, or purporting to show error, regardless of whether the argument is well-supported or even rationally connected to the particular case. (What "error" in this case?)

Posted by: guest | Feb 8, 2012 5:02:18 PM

guest --

I subscribe to your last two posts in their entirety, and will be interested to see what answers you get, if any.

Like you, I took note of peter's complaint that, ". . . . an attempt to counter the usual dross from some regulars on this board who apparently find it impossible to consider any form of mitigation, any possibility of error, whenever murder is the subject."

How ironic. It is peter, of course, who finds it impossible to consider anything BUT mitigation, or any possiblilty that the sentence did NOT result from error.

When an adolescent plans a thill murder, digs the grave to hide the body in advance, carries through with it, and says it was enjoyable, it simply never occurs to a person with peter's mindset to say, "That behavior is wrong and should get significant punishment." Indeed, the concepts of "wrong" and "punishment" seem alien to him. The only thing he thinks about is how we might be of service to the killer, ("I concur with CCDC that she should be tried and sentenced as a juvenile, receive the medical care she needs now and into the future, in a secure environment with review").

The long-accepted idea of the criminal's owing a debt to society gets turned inside-out: It's society that owes a debt to the criminal. And the more grotesque the crime, the bigger society's debt.

Amazing. Just amazing.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2012 5:55:15 PM

CCDC --

"It is difficult for me to conceive of an LWOP sentence for a juvenile that wouldn't violate the 8th Amendment -- in my book."

As you have said, in "your book," a court-ordered execution after years of review is "murder."

The only thing this tells us is that "your book" has nothing in common with actual law.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 8, 2012 6:03:02 PM

@Bill:

Thanks, even though my "I don't find it impossible" sentence got garbled: "I can resist crediting uncritically as valid almost every possible argument for mitigation, or purporting to show error, regardless of whether the argument is well-supported or even rationally connected to the particular case." Oops.

Posted by: guest | Feb 8, 2012 6:39:53 PM

Consider parole in 40 years.

Posted by: JAG | Feb 8, 2012 6:40:33 PM

Bill --

You put people in cages for non-violent drug offenses.

You seemingly never encounter a pro-death penalty argument that you don't like.

You're a mainstream Republican. (You don't own up to your hypocrisy on supporting a big and intrusive government in the war on drugs and paying lip service to claimed Republican fidelity to small and unintrusive government.)

Suffice it to say, you and I see things quite differently.

Just out of curiosity, would you support the death penalty for the murder committed by the 15-year-old killer in the case that is the subject of this thread? If you advocate the death penalty for this 15-year-old killer, how much of the taxpayers' money do you think ought to be expended in the effort to get her strapped down and shot up with the night-night needle?

Would you support having her executed at age 16 for a crime committed at age 15?

What, for you, is the youngest age at which someone should be deemed death-penalty-eligible? Should government strap down and snuff out the lives of 13-year-old killers?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 8, 2012 8:31:54 PM

hmm

"Like you, I took note of peter's complaint that, ". . . . an attempt to counter the usual dross from some regulars on this board who apparently find it impossible to consider any form of mitigation, any possibility of error, whenever murder is the subject."

actually your WRONG i do consider midigation. Of course in a MURDER case the only ones i accept are SELF DEFENSE or if you really want to go out there. IF you can prove the defendant was PROGRAMED to comitt it by a 3rd party. Absent those two.

IF it was a fair and balanced trial with no hanky panky by EITHER side....BYE BYE! and before ask. I woudn't care WHAT the defendant's age is!


it's stuff like this that has had me on other occasions saying it might be time for a small modification of the 5th admendment.

The truth drugs we have now CAN get the truth! Heck some of them are powerful enough that when used they could ask you how many bricks were in the wall of the doctor that slapped your ASS at birth and you could give the answer. Of course the ones at that lvl dont' leave much of the brain left aferword.

You said you didn't do it. you ask for the shot. You take it. in 10 min we will KNOW and if your innocent case is dropped with prejudice and your relased!

if on the other hand you FAIL you never wake up!

Posted by: rodsmith | Feb 8, 2012 8:58:17 PM

Prof. Berman: I am splitting my reply. Start with ordinary logic and common sense.

1) A 15 year old wins a tennis match with a prize of $100,000. He has beaten all the adults. Should he get $60,000 because of his age? A fifteen year old is big movie star, and attracts large audiences, worth a $20 million salary. Should the young star get $10 million due to age?

2) I don't know if you believe Job One of government is physical security of its citizens. I would appreciate it if you could agree or disagree with that philosophy. Without that essential service, one is spending full time on personal survival and on nothing else. One is living in Fallujah. So, someone kills a little girl for no reason but pleasure. Is it the job of government to protect the public or to treat the disturbed? If the job is to protect, why even look at the defendant's character or age? The victim is dead, and the neighborhood is devastated emotionally and financially. Who would want to buy a house in that area? Which is your priority safety or endless government make work to treat the untreatable personality disorder of the defendant? Lots of worthless but expensive government employment versus safety and economic viability of the neighborhood? As a left wing ideologue and government advocate, you have to grapple with your conscience, imagining the experience of the victim.

3) Go to an extreme. The murder is part of an unconscious sleep disorder with no intent. The defendant is horrified at his own act, and is deeply remorseful to a point of wanting to kill himself as a punishment for what he did. He is a great guy otherwise. Kind of the opposite of this defendant. Intent and knowledge, consent are taken from the analysis of mortal sin (violation of the Ten Commandments) in the Catechism. All arguments about mitigation stem from that religious origin, as a loophole for the very harsh consequences. So all criminal excuses and mitigations violate the Establishment Clause. You could understand better how outrageously lawless, disgusting, and treasonous the subject you teach is if you substitute the word, Catechism, with Sharia. I have read their hornbook, The Reliance of the Traveler. Sharia is pretty good 90% of time, and addresses all the standard law subjects with down to earth simplicity, common sense and fairness. The press only discusses its atavistic extreme 10% of doctrines. However, the idea of any element of the criminal law coming from that religion is completely unacceptable. The guy with the sleep disorder still needs to be executed despite no conscious intent, because of the damage done, and the likelihood of repetition.

Depends on whether you care about victims or murderers because murderers generate jobs for left wing government employment advocates.

I want you to utter the V word, even all alone, and no one is hearing it. You cannot.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 8, 2012 11:24:25 PM

CCDC --

"You put people in cages for non-violent drug offenses."

That is technically incorrect; judges impose sentences, prosecutors don't. One might also say the the drug pusher puts himself in a "cage" when he tries to make a fast buck peddling drugs, knowing full well that it's illegal and punishable by prison.

Still, I take your meaning, and plead guilty. I did indeed put meth pushers in jail for selling their wares to addicted teenagers. This fully meets your description of a "non-violent drug offense."

Indeed, not only do I plead guilty, I have not been rehabilitated. If I were back in the USAO, I would do it again without batting an eyelash.

"You seemingly never encounter a pro-death penalty argument that you don't like."

And you seemingly never encounter a killer you don't work hard for to put back on the street so he can do it again (as long as he doesn't do it to you or someone you care about).

"Suffice it to say, you and I see things quite differently."

You got that part right. I'm really not a big fan of murder or the people who do it, and I don't and won't work for them.

"You're a mainstream Republican."

No, no, no. I'm a Nazi, a bloodluster and -- get this -- a necrophiliac (yes, someone actually went that far). Don't you read this blog?

"You don't own up to your hypocrisy on supporting a big and intrusive government in the war on drugs and paying lip service to claimed Republican fidelity to small and unintrusive government."

Didn't you mean to own up to YOUR hypocrisy in supporting a big and intrusive (and unaffordable and corrosive) welfare/entitlement/regulatory state while paying lip service to a small and unintrusive government, at least as far as keeping the public safe goes?

What? How's that? A person can be for an activist government in some areas and a limited government in others?? And not be a hypocrite? Gosh, that's really a revelation.

As for your questions: The answers are easy, but I'm not going to give them because this is not a one-way street. I asked you a question before and you dodged it. I now want a straight answer. When I get it, I'll answer your questions.

The question is this: An adult inmate of sound mind, previously convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to LWOP, knifes to death a prison guard to get revenge on her for searching his cell.

What sentence should he get that is proportionate to the crime and capable of deterring other LWOP inmates from murder?

No dodging, no fancy dance. What sentence?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 9, 2012 12:35:06 AM

Bill, Bill, Bill --

I have repeatedly answered your question: No death penalty. The death penalty is barbaric. It cannot and should not exist in a rational, decent society. Administration of the death penalty involves strapping down a defenseless individual and administering poison to that defenseless individual, until he/she dies.

If the facts are as you say in the case of the LWOP inmate killing a guard, and if the State plays by the rules in convicting him of this new murder, the max. sentence should be LWOP. The killer could be put in a prison environment in which he couldn't kill again. He could be forced to have a photo of you mounted on the wall in his cell.

Bill - as I've told you, I'm a libertarian. I oppose welfare, and I oppose income tax. I vehemently oppose your vicious drug war, in which you imprison non-violent people who distribute drugs to consenting adult purchasers. You are a big gov't Republican. You voted for George W. Bush twice, and you support imperialism and endless war.

Now, answer the questions that have been put to you.

Posted by: Cali. Capital Defense Atty. | Feb 9, 2012 3:19:04 AM

CCDC --

1. Thank you for your direct and absurd answer. As you full well know, another LWOP sentence is no sentence at all. HE'S ALREADY IN FOR LIFE. Nor is there any such thing as "a prison environment in which he couldn't kill again." That's what we thought we had the first time, remember? And prisons are run by fallible human beings, remember?

In other words, the "sentence" you propose is zip. Zero. Nada. To say the least, such a sentence completely fails the twin tests of proportionality to the crime and deterrence to others. Indeed (and as you intend) the "sentence" is a virtual license to kill for other LWOP inmates.

But I have to give you one thing. You were well advised to stall and dodge for so long before finally being smoked out.

The bottom line is that you believe in the moral grotesqueness of freebie murder. Not just no serious or proportional consequences. No consequences at all.

2. "Now, answer the questions that have been put to you."

What, you give me orders now!!! Well that's just so far out, CCDC. Mind telling me how you plan to enforce your orders? This ought to be good -- The Enforcer who's too scared to give his name.

But I'll be happy to answer nonetheless. I agreed to if you gave a direct answer, and you did.

Your questions were: "Just out of curiosity, would you support the death penalty for the murder committed by the 15-year-old killer in the case that is the subject of this thread?"

No. It is my view that Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361 (1989) was correctly decided and should not have been overruled by Roper.

"If you advocate the death penalty for this 15-year-old killer, how much of the taxpayers' money do you think ought to be expended in the effort to get her strapped down and shot up with the night-night needle?"

Not applicable. See above.

"Would you support having her executed at age 16 for a crime committed at age 15?"

No. See above.

"What, for you, is the youngest age at which someone should be deemed death-penalty-eligible?"

Sixteen.

"Should government strap down and snuff out the lives of 13-year-old killers?"

See above.

Now wasn't that easy?

P.S. I'll even give you some bonus responses. I'm in a generous mood tonight. This is what spending the winter in Hawaii will do for you.

"You voted for George W. Bush twice..."

I not only voted for him twice, I was an appointee in his administration, as was my wife. It's about time you learned you're dealing with a genuine boogeyman.

"...and you support imperialism.."

I don't know how you could say that. To the contrary, I am quite opposed to the Jihadist quest to impose radical Islam on the entire world.

"...and endless war."

Wrongo. The war against terror should end the minute terror no longer endangers thousands of our people. The idea that this or any other war thrust upon us by an act of mass murder can, or should, end simply by virtue of some sophomoric sloganeering against "endless war" is actually too preposterous to waste time answering. I'm just glad FDR wasn't thinking like you in 1943.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 9, 2012 4:30:18 AM

Guest – I suggested, by the short comment made at the conclusion of the article extract I posted, that the answers provided by the FDA gave an opening for a strong line of defense for the mental condition of this child that may have contributed to her abnormal actions leading to murder. I did not claim that a murder had not taken place. I am not aware of any more details of the case than probably you are, so I cannot comment or assume any actual details of the defense …. or of any counter arguments of prosecution and defense experts if there were any. But since the majority prior comments on this thread had ranged from the narrow suggestions of instant execution to LWOP, and the treatment as an adult rather than as a juvenile, and with no reference to the part Prozac may or may not have played in the child’s mental state, nor indeed any mitigating consideration of her underlying mental illness which was as a minimum, clinical depression, I thought it appropriate to balance the discussion by introducing the implied dangers of the use of the drug as admitted by the FDA. The media source of the FDA facts was irrelevant, and they are readily available from a range of others. I did not claim that the child suffered a psychotic episode that was responsible her her actions, or whether this episode, if suffered, was a momentary or longer term experience. Neither of us, presumably, has the expertise to make such a judgment. However, so far as I am concerned, a murder such as that committed by this child is an act of insanity, whether that be a permanent, long term, or temporary state, and however caused. Given the widely accepted premise that a child’s brain is anyway underdeveloped and more susceptible to pressures and influences of all kinds (a point well-developed by Doug), given that the child was already diagnosed with a clinical mental issue, and given that she was being given Prozac which has at the very least been suspected of worsening the mental condition of some patients, I think a conclusion that the defense would have a strong case of mitigation a perfectly fair one.
Bill, as usual, doesn’t really enter the debate at all. He is more concerned to shoot down the messenger than debate the message. Contrary to his assertion that I find mitigating circumstances in all instances of murder, which is obviously a misrepresentation, I readily acknowledge that normally punishment should be a significant part of any response to it by the courts. My position, which I have often stated, is that punishment should be proportionate (after any mitigating circumstances have been explored and been given credit) within the boundaries of Human Rights as expressed by the United Nations and other international and national bodies which maintain that the death penalty is a stage too far in an age where secure and humane detention, and medical treatments where appropriate, are easily provided. I continue to argue the abolitionist viewpoint on that basis. Included within those human rights to which I refer, are a range of issues including juvenile status, mental health, (both of which have only partially yet been settled by the Supreme Court), and judicial unfairness (prejudice, error, arbitrariness, deficient process etc.). I wonder how many more times I will have to put the record straight?

Posted by: peter | Feb 9, 2012 4:48:08 AM

I thought that Prozac was supposed to make you kill yourself and not other people.

Here is the official redbox warning - I would hope that NIH is a sufficiently creditible source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a689006.html

Her defense has potential merit - remember that if you strictly go by apparent symptoms practically every 15 year old girl in the United States could be put on some sort of medication. However, because of the severe risks of giving medication to a still developing brain especially if there is a misdiagnosis, medication is reserved for especially severe cases. However, even in a severe case, misdiagnosis is still possible - if Alyssa was misdiangosed as being suicidal as a result of cutting herself due to childhood trauma most likely through sexual abuse as a child, putting her on an antidepressant was absolutely the wrong move because it could trigger an extremely dangerous situation. Victims of childhood sexual assault often turn towards victimizing others - and with the elevated mood of an antidepressant will remove self controls. Especially if Alyssa never had a case of victimizing others before this incident, it may be difficult to have seen potential warning signs that she would lash out violently. Her defense is also difficult to prove because especially at such a young age Alyssa may not have been ready to get the intensive counseling that would lead her to discuss what childhood trauma brought about the cutting and suicide attempts - and to really establish her defense, she would have to get intensive counseling to enable her to speak up about the past abuse. Especially when given medication which elevates her mood.

In my opinion, the court probably reached the right decision - LWOP should be reserved for defendants who have no chance of rehabilitation - because its possible with proper diagnosis, treatment, and counseling that Alyssa could be rehabilitated to be no longer a threat to society, there should be an opportunity for her to get out. However, if Alyssa is so damaged as to never be able to deal with her emotional issues, society should not have to take the risk of her being released. Especially given that in prison she is probably not likely to receive the intensive counseling and treatment which would likely be required to rehabilitate her.

In a perfect world, someone like Alyssa would have received the treatment she needed before she victimized others. In our imperfect world, she will probably spend the rest of her life in prison.

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Feb 9, 2012 10:12:52 AM

Hey SC, your own points show that you are not really very good with "ordinary logic and common sense." Let's start with point 1, even though it is a distraction. In fact, kid actors and athletes have lots of restrictions on earnings in the supposedly free market --- e.g., they cannot join the PGA tour or NBA or NFL until they reach a certain age; their parents control their income from entertainment performances unless they are emancipated, etc. More importantly, how the free market distributes wealth is a different concern that how a government distributes punishment. Nobody is concerned when one out of a million "equally deserving" persons wins the Publishers Clearinghouse prize, but everyone is concerned if one out of a million "equally deserving" persons get killed by the government.

Moving to point 2, I think the physical security of citizens is a very important job of government, but not one that always should trump all other concerns. After all, without roads and cars, we would all be "physically secure" from traffic accidents. But I do not think, on that basis, the government should destroy all roads and force everyone to walk everywhere. Instead, government should -- informed by democratic input -- balance physical security with other important values. We could have a great debate over whether the speed limit ought to be 70 or 50 to best strike that balance, but would you really advocate a government-enforced speed limit of, say, 10 MPH in the name of achieving Job One of physical security?

I mention driving because, as statistics show, many more innocent people are killed by drunk drivers than by thrill killers. Do you advocate locking up all persons with a history of alcoholism in their family "to protect the public" or is there some special reason you think in that (much more common) setting that society needed to "to treat the disturbed"? As you say, "If the job is to protect, why even look at the defendant's character or age" or any other factor that impacts why the defendant drinks? After all, again as you say, "The victim is dead, and the neighborhood is devastated emotionally and financially [by the drunk driver].... Which is your priority safety or endless government make work to treat the untreatable personality disorder of the defendant? Lots of worthless but expensive government employment versus safety and economic viability of the neighborhood?"

As a person who claims a distinct concern with public safety, you have to explain to me why a poor teenager girl who science documents can and will have a different personality in 20 years gets treated much differently than a well-to-do social drinkers who present a much more regular (and harder to avoid) threat to public safety every weekend.

In point 3 you suggest considering a "murder that is part of an unconscious sleep disorder with no intent in which the defendant is horrified at his own act, and is deeply remorseful to a point of wanting to kill himself as a punishment for what he did. He is a great guy otherwise." I do not know why you need to invent a sleep disorder rather than just talk about drunk driving killers who fit this profile and who kill, on average, DOZENS OF INNOCENT VICTIMS EACH DAY in the US. You assert that this "guy with the sleep disorder still needs to be executed despite no conscious intent, because of the damage done, and the likelihood of repetition." Do you say the same think about all drunk drivers who cause deaths without intent? Or how about those who just run a red light and get caught on camera? Again, stats show dangerous drivers pose a MUCH greater threat to public safety than persons with sleep disorders.

In my view, your assertions combined with "ordinary logic and common sense" suggest we ought to be prepared to execute any and all dangerous drivers if you really "care about victims." I do care about victims, but I like to believe I care about all the ones we tend to overlook because of risks that have become common because we do not, in word or deed, ever make "physical security" our priority either for our government or our children. (After all, most parents let kids go to school each day, and that is often more dangerous than keeping them home watching TV. But, like the government, parents balance safety against other values in defining what is a good life.)

Perhaps you do think "ordinary logic and common sense" calls for executing all dangerous drivers. If not, please explain why. If so, please explain whether you think 15-year-old dangerous drivers call for the same treatment as, say, 45-year-old dangerous drivers. Thanks!

Posted by: Doug B.. | Feb 9, 2012 10:18:10 AM

CCDC stated: "The killer could be put in a prison environment in which he couldn't kill again."

As someone who worked in the prison system for a decade (including supermax)and worked also in prison accreditation, I can tell you that your "prison environment" exists only in your head.

Perhaps that is your problem. You do not live and think in the "real world", just your utopian fantasyland.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 9, 2012 10:45:50 AM

Peter stated: "2. the article publishes the facts resulting from requests for information from the FDA. Are you claiming these facts are false or misleading?"

Almost definitely, by omission. The Church of Scientology has a deep hatred of medicine in general and even a deeper hatred for psychiatry. I have significant worries that the article is suffering from the logical fallacy of cherry picking. This is circumstantially backed up by the fact that these quotes had to be referenced by you in a CoS article rather than a credible scientific journal or magazine. If the FDA comments are as damning as you seem to think they are, credible sources should have been reporting this.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 9, 2012 10:55:57 AM

"However, so far as I am concerned, a murder such as that committed by this child is an act of insanity, whether that be a permanent, long term, or temporary state, and however caused."

Okay, then: so is it a fair summary of your views that the very commission of such a deviant act is itself, by definition, proof that the act is the product of some form of mental disorder for which the actor is not responsible, with the result that the actor should not be considered criminally responsible (or fully responsible) for the act?

If so, is this view limited to adolescent killers? Take the recent case in which a man resolved a child custody dispute with his former wife by blowing up their house with the children in it, killing the children. Suppose that the man had blown up the house, killing his children, without also killing himself in the process. Suppose that this occurred in a jurisdiction with LWOP but no death penalty. Realistically, is there any way that -- depending on what the facts developed at a trial might show -- you could conclude that the man is fully responsible for his actions, or do you simply conclude that anyone who blows up his house with his kids in it must necessarily have been "insan[e], whether that be a permanent, long term, or temporary state, and however caused," without the need for any additional proof of the point?

Posted by: guest | Feb 9, 2012 11:41:50 AM

@Tarls:

"As someone who worked in the prison system for a decade (including supermax)and worked also in prison accreditation, I can tell you that your "prison environment" exists only in your head.

Perhaps that is your problem. You do not live and think in the "real world", just your utopian fantasyland."

No, CCDC almost certainly understands that no such prison environment exists (if it did, I assume that CCDC would be among the first to say it amounts to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment even if reserved for individuals who have already committed murder while serving an LWOP sentence). CCDC's implied point, I take it, is that society needs to operate as if high-security prison environments are perfectly secure, and that if they're not, society (and, specifically, the prison guards who are most immediately at risk) must bear that risk as the cost of having a sufficiently civilized society.

Posted by: guest | Feb 9, 2012 11:49:10 AM

Doug --

"I think the physical security of citizens is a very important job of government, but not one that always should trump all other concerns. After all, without roads and cars, we would all be "physically secure" from traffic accidents. But I do not think, on that basis, the government should destroy all roads and force everyone to walk everywhere. Instead, government should -- informed by democratic input -- balance physical security with other important values. We could have a great debate over whether the speed limit ought to be 70 or 50 to best strike that balance, but would you really advocate a government-enforced speed limit of, say, 10 MPH in the name of achieving Job One of physical security?"

This is an excellent argument -- and one I often use -- as to why we should execute spree or thrill or serial killers notwithstanding the (admitted though remote) possibility of killing an innocent person.

As you correctly point out, it's all about trade-off's. We can completely avoid the risk of auto accidents and fatalities by abolishing roads and cars. But it's not worth it, because having roads and cars gives us something the vast majority deems to be more worthwhile than the increased safety that (unarguably) would result from banning automobile traffic.

We are willing to take the risk of innocents being killed on the highways because the advantages of having highways outweighs that risk. Likewise, we are willing to take the (incomparably smaller) risk of executing an innocent because the advantages of being able to permanently put out of business Timmy McVeigh or Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy or the Beltway Sniper are worth it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 9, 2012 1:54:11 PM

TalrsQtr, Bill, & Guest -

In one of my appeals, I reviewed testimony of a former warden and other officials at San Quentin. They described conditions on death row at San Quentin. In light of the conditions maintained at the facility, it has been many, many years since there has been any incident on the row involving an assault by an inmate against a non-inmate.

I've visited dozens, if not hundreds, of clients at federal and state prisons throughout the state of California, and I visited a witness at a prison in Arkansas. Never did I feel threatened or unsafe during any of these encounters.

Bill -- you shouldn't publicly admit that you voted for Geroge W. Bush; it's embarrassing.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 9, 2012 2:16:08 PM

Bill ---

You support the death penalty for 16-year-olds?

Have you ever had kids?

Were you ever a teenager, or were you cloned in Texas with a bunch of other Bush-supporting drug-warriors?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 9, 2012 2:18:06 PM

"In one of my appeals, I reviewed testimony of a former warden and other officials at San Quentin. They described conditions on death row at San Quentin. In light of the conditions maintained at the facility, it has been many, many years since there has been any incident on the row involving an assault by an inmate against a non-inmate. I've visited dozens, if not hundreds, of clients at federal and state prisons throughout the state of California, and I visited a witness at a prison in Arkansas. Never did I feel threatened or unsafe during any of these encounters."

(1) Just out of curiosity, in your appeal were you challenging -- either directly or indirectly -- the "conditions maintained at the facility"?

(2) Of course, your view is that "the row" should be abolished altogether, i.e., because there should be no capital punishment. If capital punishment were abolished in CA but they kept "the row" intact, not as a way station to eventual execution but as long-term housing for inmates with a demonstrated history of violence in prison, are you saying you'd accept those "conditions" as constitutional and consistent with the Eighth Amendment?

(3) I assume that you understand that the risk to any visitor during any given visit to a prison would naturally be infinitesimal in relation to the risks faced by prison guards, who work at the prison every day. The reason you were allowed in to the prison in the first place is because there wasn't an ongoing disturbance; otherwise, the facility would have been locked down. Prison guards who are already in the prison and on the job don't have the luxury of being locked out when violence erupts.

Your willingness to respond to questions (forthrightly -- I think) is refreshing and appreciated. I just wanted to double-check and make sure that the response above isn't a bait-and-switch, and that you're not saying that you felt safe during your visits to various prisons because of "conditions at the facility" that you'd declare unconstitutional or otherwise require to be abolished if you could.

Posted by: guest | Feb 9, 2012 3:20:18 PM

CCDC --

"You support the death penalty for 16-year-olds?"

I see you can read. Excellent. And you read correcty that I support the Court's opinion in Stanford v. Kentucky.

"Have you ever had kids?"

Absolutely none of your business. And you'd best keep your wonderful clients away from my family, whatever its composition.

"Were you ever a teenager..."

Rumor has it.

"...or were you cloned in Texas with a bunch of other Bush-supporting drug-warriors?"

I was born in Philadelphia, PA. And I am proud now, as I was at the time, to have resisted your efforts to promote peddling meth, heroin, LSD and other such wonderful stuff to addicts (and others). I know the misery and ruination of addiction doesn't mean jack to you -- not to mention the multitude of overdose deaths you know are inevitable -- but they did, and do, to me.

BTW, I see you make no effort to rebut my showing that your proposed sentence of LWOP to someone who's already serving LWOP is absurd. In that, at least, you demonstrate some judgment.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 9, 2012 3:43:46 PM

Dear Bill -

Would you personally be willing to strap down a 16-year-old and inject lethal amounts of poison into his/her veins?

Do you think 16-year-olds should be able to drink alcohol, vote, and go to R-rated movies alone? No? You don't? But, yet you think they're old enough to face the death penalty?

---

Be honest with yourself. Admit that you have put people in cages for years, and sometimes decades, for simply furnishing marijuana, opium, mushrooms, and other drugs to adults who voluntarily and knowingly agreed to take possession of those items.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Feb 9, 2012 8:11:22 PM

Porf. Berman: In a tribunal about a 15 year old girl killing a neighbor girl for pleasure, what would a judge say to you for bring up the subject of drunk driving? You took philosophy and know that distraction from the crime being judged is not valid, however worse. Please, give her leniency, Your Honor, because Mao Tse Tung caused the starvation deaths of 50 million people. She is not as bad as that.

I would like to discuss the subject of drunk driving and its effective remedy. It is another legal subject that is upside down.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 10, 2012 12:18:38 AM

Guest -

Prison conditions are not an issue in the appeal I referenced. The defense attorneys adduced the evidence in the trial court in an effort to convince the jury that an LWOP sentence would be "safe," because conditions can be fashioned in prison in which people like my client do not pose an appreciable risk of harm to others.

Yes, I do advocate abolition of the death penalty and the row. While I'm no expert on prison conditions, I've had clients over the years who are confined in conditions even more restrictive than those that exist on death row at San Quentin. So, in light of the fact that I've seen evidence, consisting of the sworn testimony of high-ranking prison officials, that death row inmates at San Quentin have been prevented from assaulting non-inmates for many years, and in light of the fact that there are even more restrictive conditions in other institutions, it seems to me that where there is a will, there is a way to safely house violent/dangerous inmates, for the most part.

Of course, there are always risks in penal institutions. I'm aware of a number of cases where prison guards have played a role in creating these risks. For example, I'm aware of cases where guards have assisted inmates in obtaining cell phones, drugs, weapons, and other items.

Posted by: Cali. Capital Defense Atty. | Feb 10, 2012 2:10:27 AM

Life sentence for a crime done at 15 years old is steep, no matter what the crime was.

A person evolves mentally and morally as they mature. She's a different person now, and will be different as she enters adulthood. She's done 3 already. Maybe 3 more until she hits 21, but have her constantly evaluated during her "rehabilitation." If she's absolutely nuts as a grown-up, then revoke parole.

Side note: Our jails and prisons have done nothing to better people. We have more criminals incarcerated per capita than any other country, and we call ourselves "civilized?" The whole process needs to be rethought. But there's no money in making people better...

Posted by: Steve | Feb 10, 2012 3:49:26 AM

Should 14 year old people have all adult privileges. The presumption is yes, until they do damage, just as with someone 50. In Iowa, they had 12 year olds running heavy farm equipment. They did well. The kids in the ghetto have experienced more by 14 than most here at 24, including parenthood, leadership of criminal organizations, car theft businesses on consignment. The careful thoughtful ones are not even coming to the attention of police or service providers. These are seeing the impulsive and dim witted only, getting the wrong impression about the capabilities of the ordinary 14 year old.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 10, 2012 7:34:36 AM

CCDC: Prison murders have been suppressed by 0% this decade. The main reason is increased staffing.

What is your track record in court? You are quite emotional and personal. You also need to disclose your economic self-interest in the current DP appellate business. If I may get personal, you are defending your salary, and all your utterances are presumptively in bad faith, to continue your armed robbery of the taxpayer, in your rent seeking.

I bet I can have you change sides by coming up with $146 an hour. As with most lawyers, you are prostitute. A cheap one by lawyer standards of your career point.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 10, 2012 7:42:26 AM

Correction Prison murders have been suppressed by 90%, this decade.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 10, 2012 7:43:41 AM

mr. claus: "Should 14 year old people have all adult privileges. The presumption is yes, until they do damage"

me: the average 14 year old has just enough maturity to get herself in trouble. What separates getting into serious trouble versus getting into minor trouble may well be more a matter of luck - or simply getting a break by being sent to counseling rather than the juvenile court system - than anything. I simply do not trust anyone who pretends that they didn't do something stupid during their teenaged years :)

to give adult privileges to a 14 year old would be a disaster and most of the price would be paid by the teenagers themselves. About the only people who would benefit from such a plan are sexual predators who would be able to exploit 14/15 year olds for sex.

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Feb 10, 2012 11:39:59 AM

CCDC stated: "In one of my appeals, I reviewed testimony of a former warden and other officials at San Quentin. They described conditions on death row at San Quentin. In light of the conditions maintained at the facility, it has been many, many years since there has been any incident on the row involving an assault by an inmate against a non-inmate."

I am not sure what is more chuckle-inducing, watching you change the argument or shatter the myth that you actually care about people in prison.

First, why the sudden limiting of the debate to assaults on "non-inmates?" Because deathrow inmates assault each other all the time but it does not support your previous statements, so suddenly only assaults on staff count.

And we both know that we cannot put murderers not sentenced to death in such restrictive security except under extraordinary cirumstances. You would be the first one knocking on the door of Alyssa Bustamante's mother in a legal induced orgasm if Missouri tried to put her in "death row" like conditions with the sentence she received. Not to mention, it would completely blow up your entire cost equation, as such incarceration methods are incredibly expensive.

Of course, cost has never really been a big issue with you, has it?

Even if she murdered again on the inside, she would do some time in a super max and would HAVE to be released back into GP after probably a few years if she behaved.

And your comment shows general disregard for the other inmates (including those for "non violent" drug offenses you supposedly care about). "Hey, a warden I knew says they are only killing other inmates!" Guess what? From my experience, most of them do not want to (nor deserve to) die. That you would have such little concern for them speaks volumes about what you REALLY care about.

You stated: "I've visited dozens, if not hundreds, of clients at federal and state prisons throughout the state of California, and I visited a witness at a prison in Arkansas. Never did I feel threatened or unsafe during any of these encounters."

That you would make this statement in order to imply that it is safe just shows how little you really know about life inside of prison. You are there as an advocate. Guess what? They generally do not kill their own mothers on a visit either. Such actions are reserved for the unfortunate who A) have to tell them no, B) have something they want, and/or C) cannot defend themselves.

I once testified (for the defense) in a capital case in Federal court during the sentencing phase. Your basing your expertise on visiting clients is like me saying that I am more of a legal expert than you on the basis of my 20 minutes of testimony.


Posted by: TarlsQtr | Feb 10, 2012 11:52:44 AM

Apparently, rational and sober exchanges with SC, Federalist, and TarlsQtr are simply not possible.

Posted by: Cali. Capital Defense Atty. | Feb 10, 2012 12:23:16 PM

CCDA: Try some discussion in good faith. Disclose your economic self-interest to allow the reader some judgment on your credibility, and motivation for defending the indefensible, at great cost to the taxpayer. That cost is taken at the point of a gun, and is a synonym for armed robbery. The fact that a member of the lawyer hierarchy on the appellate bench has enabled it by distorting and lying about the wording of the constitution, does not lessen its sickening, treasonous, immoral nature. It just means the rent seeking involved a criminal cult indoctrination, and that the judge deserves to be arrested, tried and summarily executed after an hour's fair trial for its insurrection against the constitution. The sole external validation for the game you and those judges are playing is at the point of a gun. The police and other armed agents that protect you and enforce those lawless orders? They go on the arrest list too.

At some point the coddling of criminals and terrorists will result in the eradication of a US city by a nuclear device. It will be at that point that all scores will be settled with the internal traitors and criminal enablers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 10, 2012 10:35:42 PM

Virginia: As a teen I made mistakes that might be embarrassing or silly. As an adult, I made mistakes that killed people. See the Supreme Court for a torrent of mistakes made by old people. Theirs not only kill people, they endanger our civilization.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 11, 2012 8:11:33 PM

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