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October 1, 2013

Unusual (and cruel)?: two distinct life sentences from the same judge

Wed1_t180The title of this post is my attempt to put a humurous spin on this notable local story, headlined "Judge sentences killer, performs wedding," involving a defendant having two notable (and surely life changing) experiences on one sentencing day this week.  Here are the details:

For Danne Desbrow, Sept. 17 was a day with some bad news, and some good news.

First, the bad. He was sentenced to 53 years to life in prison by San Diego Superior Court Judge Patricia Cookson, after being convicted of the murder of another man in Lemon Grove a decade ago.

Then, the good: He got married — by the same judge who had sentenced him to decades behind bars just a few minutes earlier. And he got a slice of cake to eat in the courtroom too, baked by the judge herself.

The wedding ceremony, which came minutes after what several witnesses described as an emotional sentencing hearing, was highly unusual. Judges frequently marry people, and occasionally perform marriage ceremonies for people in custody. But doing so in the courtroom after sending the groom to a lifetime behind bars is pretty much unheard of....

For Desbrow’s lawyer, whose motions for a new trial and a delay in sentencing were abruptly rejected by Cookson at the start of the court hearing, the entire event was surreal. “I didn’t know it was going to happen,” said defense attorney Steve Cline. “Obviously, it was an unusual day from start to finish. I mean, I appreciate that she honored the request for them to marry. But, I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Desbrow, 36, was sentenced for the killing of Kevin Santos in 2003. Deputy District Attorney Joe McGlaughlin said the case went unsolved for years until a witness came forward and gave key information pointing to Desbrow. Cline said the defense argued the case was not murder but that Desbrow was defending himself in a fight. After a two-month trial, jurors convicted Desbrow of first-degree murder.

It was during the trial that Danne Desbrow popped the question to his wife-to-be, Destiny, 33. She said in an interview they had begun dating when she was 16, but when she got pregnant the two lost contact.

Last year she said her son wanted to meet his father. Using social media, she was able to track down Desbrow’s family and in January they met for the first time in years — when Danne Desbrow was in jail awaiting trial.

Regular visits followed and Destiny sat through each day of the trial. After the proposal she said she called Cookson’s chambers and asked if the judge would marry them at sentencing. “She called me back and sad yes, she would,” Destiny Desbrow said, adding she was somewhat surprised the judge agreed. The judge’s secretary even called two days ahead of time to make sure everything was in order — rings, notary, documents.

So, after sentencing Danne Desbrow to two consecutive 25-year to life terms (one for the use of a gun in the murder) and another three years for threatening a witness, Cookson concluded the hearing. Members of Santos’s family, who had spoken angrily to Desbrow, were escorted out of the courtroom, according to two people who saw the wedding....

“That is something that does not happen with great regularity,” said Jan Caldwell, a spokesman for Sheriff Bill Gore, who oversees the county jail system. “I’ve never heard of it.”

Weddings in jail are not uncommon, she said. They occur with some frequency during regular visiting hours. Newlyweds have to get their own justice of the peace, and the vows are exchanged through the glass separating visitors from inmates.

Desbrow intends to appeal the murder conviction. He remains in county jail pending another court hearing on a separate case in October. His wife remains hopeful. “I have faith God is going to bring him home,” Destiny Desbrow said.

October 1, 2013 at 04:26 PM | Permalink


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People who defend themselves in a fight should be sent home. If the victim was a violent criminal, the defendant should have received a $10,000 cash reward for killing a violent criminal.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 1, 2013 10:16:02 PM

I am a student of Criminal Justice, a Certified Volunteer for Prison Fellowship Ministries and a Conservative Republican, living in Tennessee.

It never ceases to amaze me how people view our criminal justice system and how felons are treated. The average person wants all serious crimes like murder and sexual crimes to be dealt with by hanging. They hold this belief until someone they know is convicted of a serious crime and then realizes that state and federal prisons are not Club Med.

While it is important that we mete out justice to all who commit crimes, it doesn't mean we cannot show basic human compassion for them and apply that to their humane treatment behind bars.

This judge showed compassion for the convicted and his girlfriend. It is indeed tragic that what his involvement in the death of another man would ruin so many lives, but his love for his now wife is forever shown in the promise witnessed by the judge's civil marriage ceremony.

Posted by: Paul | Oct 8, 2013 5:40:46 AM

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