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April 3, 2007

A record setting performance?

This article reports on what seems like a record-setting term of imprisonment given by an Ohio judge to a child molester:

Joseph Palmer, the Washington Court House man convicted of sexually molesting three young girls over a span of almost 11 years, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

"Your victims and the community can take some comfort from the fact that you'll never breathe another breath of free air," Fayette County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Beathard said Monday after sentencing Palmer to the maximum penalties for all of the 151 counts of which he was convicted. "That may be the only comfort they can take from this."

The charges included numerous counts of rape, gross sexual imposition, felonious sexual penetration and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. Palmer was sentenced to at least 1,128 years in prison in total.  No one at the courthouse could recall a longer prison sentence in the history of Fayette County.

Does anyone know of an impose sentence that was longer than 1,128 years in prison?  If I am ever to be the Tim Kurkjian of sentencing statistics, I have to know what was the longest sentence in years ever imposed.  Has Joseph Palmer set the record?

UPDATE:  A helpful reader provided these additional "statistics" on record sentences:

(1) Kyzer v. State 484 So.2d 1202 (Ala. Cr. App. 1986): sentenced by jury to 10,000 years for first degree murder.

(2) P v. Jackson (unpublished) In 1998, a Sacramento California d.a. argued for a sentence of 1723 years to life in a sex offense case.  Imagine his/her disappiontment when the defendant was only sentenced to a determinate sentence of 145 years, to be followed by an indeterminate term of 925 years to life, i.e. 1070 to life.  The defendant was Benny Jackson, Sacramento County case no. 98F00182.  If Palmer's sentence is fully determinate, i.e. not a life term, then I suppose Jackson's is theoretically longer.  Note: Jackson appealed and he got some sort of partial reversal.

April 3, 2007 at 09:51 AM | Permalink


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Tracked on Apr 4, 2007 8:32:10 PM


A reporter asked me once why the taxpayers have to provide a lawyer to appeal the length of a sentence when the lower end of the disputed range is still well beyond the defendant's life expectancy. I didn't have a good answer. Suggestions, anyone?

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Apr 3, 2007 3:25:20 PM

On August 3, 2000 a jury in the case of Wayne Miller, in Taylor Co., Ky, handed down a sentence of 5,643 years - what I believe to be the longest in KY history.

A sentencing cap of 70 years for consecutive felony offenses enacted two years earlier meant the sentence had to be reduced to 70 years on appeal.

Glenn McClister
in charge of new attorney training
KY Dept. of Public Advocacy

Posted by: Glenn McClister | Apr 3, 2007 4:00:21 PM


It's true that at the time a sentencing issue is briefed on direct appeal it may appear that prevailing will have no practical benefit. But that doesn't mean it will never have a practical benefit, and knowing for sure would require predicting the future. If in some future proceeding, say on habeas review, convictions on other counts are vacated, suddenly the previously challenged sentence is of great signifiance.

It's also impossible to predict all the collateral consequences of the total length of the sentence.

Justice Ming Chin of the Cal. Supreme Court once proposed a solution to this problem in a capital case called P v. Cleveland. Chin suggested that the Legislature enact a bill providing: "if the trial court imposes a sentence of death or LWOP on any count, it need not impose any other sentence, including enhancements. If the convictions are ever set aside or modified to reduce the sentence to something less than LWOP, the court can resentence the defendant on the remaining counts at that time. The defendant could appeal the resentencing, with the appeal limited to issues arising out of that resentencing." A problem with this approach would be that fact-finding becomes more difficult if much time has passed.

As for why the taxpayers have to pay for the attorney, it's because the equal protection and due process clauses require it.

Posted by: Jonathan Soglin | Apr 3, 2007 4:52:37 PM

I would say a life without parole sentence is technically longer than all of these wacky 10,000 year sentences. If the person somehow lived for 10,001 years, he'd be freed. Not so with a life w/o parole sentence. Yeah i realize nobody lives 10,000 years (even 100 years is a de facto life sentence), I'm not dumb. Just saying that these large sentences are typically a jury's statement that they don't want the defendant to get parole, ever. Also, when a DA asks for 10,000 years, 145 years seems like a reasonable middle ground compromise for the average juror (in fact, it's way on the defendant's side as 5,000 years would be the middle ground). Maybe defense attorneys in such cases should file motions requesting the prosecution not seek a sentence greater than 10 years over the expected remaining lifespan of the defendant, so as to not prejudice the defendant with the math.

Here in Texas, unless sentences are stacked, 99 years is the max, other than life, so we don't get this problem. You can be sentenced to life but not 100 years.

Posted by: Bruce | Apr 4, 2007 10:49:25 AM

"Also, when a DA asks for 10,000 years, 145 years seems like a reasonable middle ground compromise for the average juror"

Not even the average juror is that stupid

Posted by: | Apr 5, 2007 10:57:09 AM

What's it mean when it's stacked? In Texas, the guy who killed my brother in 1984 got 2 life sentences, stacked, but is up for parole next year. What good is 2 life sentences, when he's already up for parole after only 20 years?

Posted by: | Apr 18, 2007 1:04:47 PM

What city and state was Joseph Palmer convicted in of 151 sexual counts of misconduct

Posted by: John Hawks | Aug 15, 2022 3:14:55 PM

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