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April 13, 2023

Jury gives defendant (with significant criminal history) a 70-year prison sentence for spitting at cops

There is a lot more to this local sentencing story from Texas than the headline, but what a headline: "Man found guilty of spitting at Lubbock Police gets 70 years in prison."  Here are the details:

Larry Pearson, 36, was sentenced by a Lubbock jury on Wednesday to 70 years in prison after he was found guilty on two counts of harassment of a public servant for spitting at Lubbock Police officers. “You’re not going to get 70 years for something like this when you’ve never been in trouble before,” Prosecutor Jessica Gorman said.

Gorman told EverythingLubbock.com that Pearson was arrested in May of 2022 for domestic violence after a victim flagged down an officer in the 200 block of Zenith Avenue. The victim told police that Pearson hit her several times, and that he had a gun. Gorman said that firearm turned out to be an airsoft gun. A police report at the time stated the victim had “multiple visible injuries” on her face. Gorman said after Pearson was taken into custody, he was upset the victim was not arrested instead.

Gorman said Pearson started kicking at the doors in the officer’s vehicle. When the officers opened the door to tell him to stop, Gorman said he spit at both officers. Gorman said Pearson kept spitting after he arrived at the Lubbock County Detention Center.

During closing arguments of the sentencing phase of Pearson’s trial, Gorman asked the jury to consider a number that would “send a message” to Pearson and society. Gorman told EverythingLubbock.com that Pearson had prior convictions of aggravated robbery and continuous family violence. Due to those convictions, the minimum sentence Pearson could have received would’ve been 25 years.

“If you’re going to live the life of crime, you’re going to do that among other criminals [in prison],” Gorman said during closing arguments. Defense Attorney Jim Shaw told the jury the sentencing was for a “simple misdemeanor” in a circumstance that got “out of control.”

I tend to be a fan of jury sentencing, but this sounds like a lot.

April 13, 2023 at 03:06 PM | Permalink


Yeah, it's a problem.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 13, 2023 3:49:34 PM

I think each of the jurors should get on year and one day.

Posted by: anon1 | Apr 13, 2023 4:19:40 PM

"I tend to be a fan of jury sentencing, but this sounds like a lot."

Yup. But two observations. First, jury sentencing can cut both ways, as we see. Second, I strongly suspect the jury saw this guy as a years-long bad actor, and that it was either serious prison now or something much worse than spitting later.

I also wonder how he looked and acted during the trial.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Apr 13, 2023 4:44:51 PM

I read the other day that Lubbock’s crime rate is far above the national average. It is very conservative, white and Christian demographically. (I’m wondering if Soreil Haetir, known to many of us on this site and who advocates for such draconian sentences, hails from Lubbock?) Misdemeanor violations with misdemeanor priors resulting in veritable life sentences in my opinion are violations of the 8th Amendment. We all can recall the man prosecuted for taking a slice of pizza receiving a life sentence a number of years ago, because he had misdemeanor priors. Did that reduce the crime rate any? Was justice served?

Posted by: SG | Apr 13, 2023 4:54:24 PM

What the prosecutor left out of her story is that even if the guy qualified as a "habitual offender" under Texas law, she has to make the decision to add that allegation to an indictment to invoke the 25-Life sentencing range.

Ergo, vindictive DA made the decision to habitualize him (or "high bitch" him as they say in West Texas. I am not kidding). That meant he was looking at 25-Life.

Most of the time, a DA will not add a habitual offender enhancement (similar to an 851) unless they are trying to be punitive in these types of cases. Even then, they can abandon that enhancement at trial if they want to do it.

So don't let the DA act like she's some innocent bystander here.

Posted by: Zachary Newland | Apr 13, 2023 5:07:03 PM

off subject. To paraphrase King Henry II berating his knights about Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, ""Will no one rid me of this corrupt Justice Thomas."

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Apr 13, 2023 11:23:26 PM

This is excessive and violates the 8th Amendment. I can understand 12 months probation, maybe even 10 days jail, but certainly not 70 years.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 14, 2023 9:17:13 AM


Sorry to disappoint but I've only spent about two hours of my life anywhere in Texas, and that only at DFW when making a single flight transfer. In order of time spent as a resident the list of places goes Alaska (where I currently live), Idaho, Washington, California, Guam and Oregon, although I was young enough I do not remember the last at all.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 14, 2023 2:47:34 PM


I envy those who spent time or live in the Northwest/Alaska. Truly God's country.

Posted by: SG | Apr 14, 2023 9:53:08 PM

Sentenced 70 years for spitting on 2 cops seemed weird so I filed a few FOIA requests in Lubbock county as well as the surrounding counties so I could see his criminal record. He has multiple records in multiple counties. (Lubbock County, Dallas county)

This is not a 1st time offender. Not even close. This is a guy who has been routinely beating his girlfriends and children for a decade. He breached a protective order and his bond conditions. He punched his girlfriend in the face in front of the police officers. He keeps getting convictions and they keep letting him out. He racked up over 30 more infractions in jail while waiting for his day in court.

Even after everything he has done he is expected to only serve 17 years. (1/4 of a 70 year sentence)

This guy is the reason prisons exist.

Posted by: Grundy | Apr 15, 2023 1:42:27 AM

Pearson may have an extensive criminal record, but that does not justify a 70 year sentence. A sentence to reflect the gravitas of the crime.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 15, 2023 5:35:07 PM

Seventy is definitely excessive, but the lack of truth in sentencing is part of the problem. I am assuming that the jury is not informed about parole eligibility but all jurors know that parole is a possibility. As such, they are trying to guess how long they need to give the defendant to get what he wants.

Given that we are really talking about misdemeanor conduct (spitting) enhanced to a felony only because the victim is a public servant, I am thinking that somewhere between five years and ten years of actual prison time (given defendant's record) is the ballpark. But the jury has no way of knowing what sentence length gets in that ballpark. The DA, on the other hand, has that information. Having done the enhancement, the DA should have told the jury that a sentence of thirty to forty years was appropriate.

Posted by: tmm | Apr 16, 2023 10:09:43 AM

"what he wants" should be "what they want".

Posted by: tmm | Apr 16, 2023 10:10:38 AM

I have mixed feelings. If he "breached a protective order and his bond conditions" and "punched his girlfriend in front of the police", he should have received substantial time for those convictions. Is this a case where two wrongs make a right?


It does sound like he has reached a level of criminality where release needs to be earned by him, not simply granted after some period of time.

Nothing I've read above suggests to me that he needs a sentence that will result in him actually serving an effective life sentence, even if he manages to improve himself. Assuming an older version of him does have a genuine chance to earn release 17 years from now, well, I'd prefer a little sooner, but "17 years" has to be a better answer in his case than "1 year".

Posted by: William C Jockusch | Apr 16, 2023 1:00:41 PM

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