December 17, 2013
"We wish you 70 years in prison, we wish you 70 years in prison, and an unhappy new life"
The title of this post is inspired by this local sentencing story and the song I could imagine in some Texas jurors' heads as they decided to "celebrate" the holiday season by sentencing a woman with a notably long and ugly criminal record to a notably long and harsh prison term. The story is headlined "Parker County 'Grinch' Sentenced to 70 Years in Prison," and here are the details:
A woman known as the Christmas “Grinch” for stealing Christmas lights from a Parker County family’s home was sentenced to 70 years in prison on Friday after she was convicted of a separate burglary.
Dana Brock, 44, of Hurst, shook her head when the judge read the jury’s sentence. Prosecutors pushed for a long sentence because of her lengthy criminal record.
Brock gained notoriety in December 2012 when she was caught on surveillance video stealing Christmas lights from outside a family’s Aledo home while they were inside sleeping. She was arrested again in May after she stole a weed wacker and a power washer from another homeowner’s garage. She also was caught on video in that case.
"One of our deputies who responded out to this case and looked at the surveillance video at the homeowner's house saw her on the video and said, 'Hey, that's the Grinch,’” said assistant Parker County district attorney Jeff Swain. “He knew right away who it was." A jury deliberated just five minutes before convicting her on Thursday.
In the sentencing phase of her trial, prosecutors pointed to her long criminal history. Brock’s record dates to when she was a 17-year-old and was convicted in Arizona of solicitation to commit murder. Over the years she also was convicted of credit card abuse, injury to a child, theft, assault, and drug possession. Instead of two to 20 years in prison for burglary of a habitation, she faced 25 years to life under the "three strikes and you're out" law.
She shook her head as the judge read her 70-year sentence. "A 70-year sentence will knock the air out of your stomach,” said her attorney Raul Navarez. “She kept asking me, '70 years? Are you serious? 70 years?' Because 70 years is a pretty harsh sentence for this kind of a deal. And quite frankly, that's what I argued to the jury. But the jury decided and we have to respect that."
Navarez and prosecutors agree it didn't help her case when jurors saw the video of her stealing Christmas lights. "When you're known as the Christmas Grinch, people do remember you,” Swain said.
I am unsure whether Texas law ensures that this version of the grinch will have to serve most or nearly all of these 70 years in prison, though this defendant's lengthy record of not-so-petty crimes leads me to be less than too-sympathetic concerning her fate. That said, if she is really as smart as the "real" Grinch, she probably will be able to figure out some way to catch "affluenza" while serving her time in Texas prisons and thereafter convincingly claims at a parole hearing that her heart and her conscience managed to grow three sizes one day while she was incarcerated.
December 17, 2013 at 05:25 PM | Permalink
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People don't like it when strangers come onto their property and mess with their stuff. I always have to remind my clients of this when they express wonder that a prior burglary conviction tends to have the same effect on their federal guidelines that a conviction for murder or rape would.
Posted by: C.E. | Dec 18, 2013 12:35:00 AM
While Texas has made some progress in reducing overcrowding, I suspect that this defendant will serve significantly less than 70 years (my guess is parole in 15-20 years).
Reading the story, two things struck me: 1) Trying a case about stealing Christmas decorations two weeks before Christmas -- brilliant for the prosecution, less than brilliant for the defense. 2) Even with the enhanced mandatory minimum (25 years), I would rather take my chances with a judge on sentencing on an open plea rather than a jury in what seemed like an open and shut case.
Posted by: tmm | Dec 18, 2013 9:20:27 AM
“She kept asking me, '70 years? Are you serious?” – surprise, surprise
“on surveillance video stealing Christmas lights from outside a family’s Aledo home while they were inside sleeping. .. She was arrested again in May after she stole
..solicitation to commit murder, credit card abuse, injury to a child, theft, assault, and drug possession.”
It’s so fitting & proper that the jury could apply the "three strikes and you're out" response.
Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 18, 2013 9:48:39 AM
Most of us know what affluenza is but Doug, its Christmas, take a holiday break. She wont be able to employ that defense. Texas will pay millions to keep her locked up. It would be cheaper to hand out Christmas lights to her every third day of the year and twice on Sunday.
Posted by: Liberty1st | Dec 18, 2013 5:02:24 PM
70 years for petty theft? Seems about right given the way our system works.
Can't help but wonder if the 30-YEAR-OLD "solicitation to commit murder" charge the Grinch was hit with as a teenager was as seemingly hyperbolic and bogus as the more current "burglary of a habitation" charge for stealing Christmas lights from the OUTSIDE of a home.
The Grinch appellation stands as an extraordinarily effective example of prosecutorial vilification as a means of teeing up defendants in the worst possible light. Yet another example was juicing up the narrative by noting she stole the lights "while the family was sleeping" in the home. Nicely done.
Posted by: John K | Dec 20, 2013 8:26:40 AM
// "Yet another example was juicing up the narrative by noting she stole the lights "while the family was sleeping" in the home. Nicely done." \\
And true. So why so peevish, John K?
"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,
because their deeds were evil."
Posted by: Adamakis | Dec 20, 2013 1:13:23 PM
Why so peevish? Because prosecutors have too much power and abuse it routinely.
Why so obtuse?
Posted by: John K | Dec 20, 2013 6:12:57 PM