Phil Spector Sentence: 19 Years to Life

Phil Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life today for the death of Lana Clarkson.

His lawyer said he was wrongfully convicted:

Attorney Doron Weinberg maintained that Spector was convicted wrongly. “The evidence did not establish Mr. Spector’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” the lawyer said.

The sentence included 15 years for second-degree murder, with a four year enhancement for gun possession. He showed no emotion during the sentencing.

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    Does "Wrongly Convicted" mean (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Inspector Gadget on Fri May 29, 2009 at 02:59:25 PM EST
    innocent? It's hard to figure out with:

    "The evidence did not establish Mr. Spector's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," the lawyer said.

    as the reasoning. Of course, she's basing this on her opinion and the jurors must have had a unanimous opinion that it was enough to establish guilt.

    I really hate that innocent people are in prison. But, I'm not sure I would hate knowing if guilty people who weren't fortunate enough to confuse the jury enough to establish "reasonable doubt" are in prison.

    Not necessarily (none / 0) (#4)
    by Zorba on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:43:48 PM EST
    "Wrongly convicted" does not have to mean "Innocent."  It just may mean that the lawyer did not think that the state proved its case "beyond a reasonable doubt."  (Although I think that defense lawyers pretty much say this, if not always, at least very often.)  For that matter, a "Not Guilty" verdict doesn't necessarily mean "Innocent."  Again, it means that the state did not prove it "beyond a reasonable doubt."  Maybe we should use the term "Not Proven" instead of "Not Guilty."

    I know many conservatives (none / 0) (#6)
    by JamesTX on Fri May 29, 2009 at 08:22:45 PM EST
    lament the confusion of "not guilty" and "innocent" (I am not directing this to you). The important thing, as always, is the context. There is supposed to be a presumption of innocence, therefore "not guilty" does entail "innocent", and it need not be qualified. There is no mechanism or process, as far as I know, for establishing innocence. That is why it is presumed. If we are not allowed to presume innocence, then those wrongfully accused have no possible way to be exonerated. If "not guilty" is read simply as "ineffective prosecution of a guilty person", then there is no way out of the vortex of prosecutorial discretion. There is no possible way to be innocent. Accusation becomes guilt.

    The idea of presumption of innocence may bother some people, and I realize it has been successfully portrayed as folly by the conservative intelligentsia. But it doesn't bother me. Not a bit. I am grateful every day I live in a country where the notion exists, at least in theory. It is quickly disappearing.

    Unfortunately, the conservative movement has fostered and perfected a very peculiar way of reasoning about this issue. I realize I am out of step, but they are just wrong. The purpose of it all was to establish authoritarianism as the underlying ethic and philosophy of social order. Different groups jumped on the bandwagon for different reasons. That is, the conservative think tanks sold the idea to different populations in terms that best appealed to their interests. Some thought that once authoritarianism was accepted as justice, they could implement a theological government (proponents of Christian theocracy). Others simply wanted to reduce the cost of incarcerating and silencing poor people, who they viewed as prone to criminality and as having been endowed with too many rights under the constitution (elitism). Others viewed too much choice and freedom among the powerless as the primary barrier to corporate profits and control of markets (plutocrats).

    Our founders recognized something very important -- an idea conservatives have spent billions trying to discredit. That idea is that government power is more dangerous than crime. Nowhere in the Constitution is a guarantee, implied or otherwise, of absolute safety from crime. Our founders understood that life is risky. They properly understood that arbitrary and capricious government is more risky than unpunished crime.

    I am sorry, but that is what I believe. And I think it is what is encoded in most of our laws, prior to the large scale attempts at revision that started with the conservative movement of Ronald Reagan. They may get away with it, but then again they may not. The game is not over yet.


    Too much of the word game used in (none / 0) (#7)
    by Inspector Gadget on Fri May 29, 2009 at 09:12:35 PM EST
    justice is founded in the idea that there is a Winner and a Loser in every legal matter brought to trial. Something of a game. The "loser" seems intent on being able to twist their placement into something other than a loss.

    Seems to me, though, that when a guilty person is found to be guilty, and when an innocent person is found to be innocent, the truth of the matter is everyone WON.


    I do not think that is quite right (none / 0) (#8)
    by nyjets on Fri May 29, 2009 at 10:35:15 PM EST
    It is perfectly possible for a guilty person to be found innocent of a crime by a jury. (Conversely an innocent person can be found guilty.)
    Therefore, just because a jury found someone innocent does not mean that a person is innocent of the crime. Very often it does. Very often it does not. For example, there have been numerous examples of white men being found not guilty for huting killing African-Americans when in fact they were probable guilty.

    The fact of the matter is a not guilty verdict does not necessarily exonerate the defendant. THe not guilty verdict means:

    1. One exoneration.
    2. Prosection failed to prove there case OR the defense discredited the prosection case.
    3. Jury ignored the evidence and/or the law.

    NOw, ifyou want to say that the law recognzies you as innocent then you are probable correct.

    I thought juries returned (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by JamesTX on Sat May 30, 2009 at 03:43:57 AM EST
    verdicts of "guilty" or "not guilty". My conceptualization of the reasoning is based in how the process was taught to me as a child in public schools. My schooling was significantly prior to the conservative revolution, so it was not colored by the rhetoric that emerged during the Reagan revolution. This was even true in my home state, which was actually part of the more conservative right-wing culture. It is interesting that even conservatives saw the Constitutional rights that protected us from being jailed by the government as sacred rights -- and as good, positive things -- prior to the Reagan revolution.

    Back then, conservatives and liberals were equally proud of the system. They taught their children that Constitutional rights were good things and those rights made us different from other countries. In some other countries, we were told, the government could often jail people without proving they were guilty of anything. In some places, people were assumed to be guilty until they proved they were innocent. At that time, we were not taught the underlying assumption that our system was flawed and was failing, and rights needed to be disposed of. Rights were seen as being just, good things.

    The attitude that rights are bad things was part of the Reagan revolution. It is my understanding kids are now taught about our Constitutional rights with some negative tongue-in-cheek sarcasm. The message they are given is that Constitutional rights were a sort of "mistake", and that individual rights are a sort of bad things which just allow criminals to go free. Not much emphasis is placed on how rights protect us all from the government, or why we need such protection (e.g. power corrupts, and governments will always tend to use power abusively unless the law prohibits it).

    "Truth", at the time I was schooled, was viewed as being something which came out of a fair process of debate in a public setting, based on evidence. That is, it was something which was discovered by openly allowing all parties to present their arguments and evidence from their point of view. Truth is now considered to be something which is simply "known" by the police, and it is simply supposed to be accepted as such because the police are "good, reliable people", and because they have authority. Under conservative reasoning, whatever the police say is true is simply considered to be truth, and the value and validity of court procedures are judged in terms of whether or not the court agrees with the police. This is called authoritarianism. It is a very different way of reasoning from what I was taught as a child, and it is hard for me to get my mind around it. It also is completely at odds with the logic underlying the vast majority of our laws before Reagan.

    The authoritarian attitude has become so widely accepted that it led to the Bush presidency, which suggests some large proportion of the people actually believe the Executive branch of the government is not bound by law, and the Executive is the final arbiter of truth. The Executive can do anything it wants, simply because it has the authority. At the local level, the Executive is best represented as the police, and the police are seen as the ultimate arbiters of truth in most communities. Due process is seen as a confusing and ineffective mistake -- a sort of old-fashioned tradition that nobody knows the reason for it or the purpose of it. Constitutional rights are seen as something that simply helps criminals, as if the founders liked criminals or supported crime. Courts are expected to defer to the police version of truth, and they are criticized and hated to the extent that their decisions deviate from the pronouncements and policies of the police.

    As children, we were taught that the American system of justice was unique, and was designed to protect citizens from arbitrary and capricious attack by the government. This was all presented in the context of being a contrast to the justice system imposed on Americans by the British and the religion-dominated states before independence and the Constitution. In those systems, individuals had fewer rights, and the criminal justice system was used to silence political dissent and to attack people for religious reasons. We were taught that the fundamental ideas behind the American criminal justice process were these:

    1. If the government arrested a person for a crime, the person had the right to ask the court to order the government to release them, because all Americans are free by default, and can't legally be held against their will.

    2. If the government didn't want to release them, but wanted to punish them for a crime, then the government had to ask the court to put the person on trial.

    3. At the trial, the government had to prove the person was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It had to be exceptionally strong proof, because the government was so much more powerful than the individual to begin with. Also (and very important to your dissatisfaction with the meaning of "not guilty"), it was considered to be more acceptable for a crime to go unpunished than for an innocent person to be wrongly convicted, or to be convicted for religious reasons or for political speech.

    4. Until the government's proof was accepted by a jury and the court found the person guilty, the person was presumed innocent.

    5. If the jury found the person not guilty, then the presumption of innocence was never dropped or discarded. It remained the official presumption about the person.

    Until a person is found guilty, they are innocent. If they are tried and found not guilty, then they are still just as innocent as they were presumed to be before the government arrested them.

    We were taught that this was the beauty of our Constitutional rights, and we were proud. Americans are innocent until proven otherwise. We are assumed to be good people. If the government attempts to prove otherwise and fails, then we remain innocent. Americans are innocent unless they are found guilty in a court by a jury (or otherwise if they agree to it). That is our Constitutional birthright.

    Conservatives present this process as being unacceptably flawed because they say it is possible for criminals to go free under when these restraints are placed on government. They think it is more important to be certain that every crime is severely punished than it is to be sure that innocent people are not convicted. They think the only way to be sure that all crime is punished is to do away with our rights and the presumption of innocence. They believe if we just select the right people to be the authorities, and we take measures to be sure that the authorities are "good people", then we shouldn't ever question what they do. We should just allow them to imprison or otherwise punish anyone they want without question. That way, they reason, we will be safe from criminals. They think it is more important to guarantee that every crime is punished than it is to guarantee that innocent people are not wrongly accused and punished, and that the authorities cannot use their power to imprison and punish people for reasons other than violation of laws. They see the threat of crime as being more of a threat than the threat of authorities who have absolute power.

    The truth for me is that we cannot be sure every crime is punished. At some point, there is a balance between the risk of being victimized by crime and the risk of being victimized by government. When people are given power, and they do not have to answer for their actions, nor do they have to explain or justify their actions, then they slowly begin abuse that power. It is only natural.

    So, when you say there are people who are found "not guilty" who actually did something wrong, I don't disagree. The difference between me and most people nowadays is that I don't see that as being a major problem. That is, the risk and damage that results from that miscarriage of justice is not worth giving up our rights for. I see scores of men who have spent decades in prisons who were innocent, but who were convicted because of the conservative attitudes which govern our criminal justice system. I think we are ultimately safer with a few criminals escaping punishment in some situations than we are with a government which has no restraints on its power. Criminals who lie can eventually be caught. I can run from or protect myself from criminals. I am powerless against the government. They are a much bigger threat. Governments with no restraint are very hard to stop. There are many opportunities and many ways to eventually stop a criminal.

    The Bush administration is the final result of the new American authoritarian attitude. I hope the experience we had with Bush marks a boundary beyond which our people choose not to go. I also hope it will prompt them to start thinking about how the authoritarian philosophy in criminal justice might not be the most rational approach.


    For the most part I think you are right (none / 0) (#13)
    by nyjets on Sat May 30, 2009 at 07:41:28 AM EST
    I am not going to disagree with what you wrote. For the most part, I think you are right. Mind you, I am human, I do not want to see criminals go free. That being said, I do want to have the government prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. You do need balance and for the most part, I agree with the balance that you talk about.

    Also, you are right, once a person is found not guilty, the government will view you as not guilty and can take no steps to seize your property in the forms of fines or incarcerate you.

    HOWEVER,a not guilty verdict does not necessarily exonerate a person. For example, and this has happened, a person has been found not guilty in a criminal court but were taken to civil court where the jury felt that via preponderance of evidence the person was guilty. There was not enough evidence to prove the case in a criminal court. There is enough evidence to prove the case in a civil court.

    My point is, just because the state failed to prove their case does not mean there was no evidence that indicated the person was guilty. It could pass the threshold in a civil case, but not a criminal  case.

    Therefore, people, including myself will not take a not guilty verdict as an automatic indication that the person was innocent. All it means is that for whatever reason, the prosection failed to prove their case for whatever reason.


    Thanks for indulging (none / 0) (#16)
    by JamesTX on Sat May 30, 2009 at 01:25:49 PM EST
    my childlike view. I know it is oversimplified fantasy, but it is a sort pure form of the political pole I lean toward. It contains these ideas about presumption of innocence and the number n that sets conservative and liberal viewpoints apart. I do not fear crime as much as I fear government, and I have less protection against crime than most. I think conviction of innocents is a much more egregious thing than murderers walking free. My n ratio would be something like 1,000,000. For most people, that considerably overvalues the life of an innocent. Conservatives immediately counter that murderers walking free means somebody else will get killed, which is worse than conviction of innocents. Their error is twofold: (1) it doesn't always, or even most of time, mean someone else will die. That is based on the conservative indulgence that all offenders are habitual and repeat offenders. They slipped that little lie in and got it accepted as fact early in the revolution. Now it is simply unconsciously plugged into logical equations as a premise. It is a far from true. (2) There are other equally fatal hazards in our environment which we take no measure so strong as risking innocents to avoid.

    I would disagree with you on 2 points (none / 0) (#18)
    by nyjets on Sat May 30, 2009 at 02:20:23 PM EST
    1. I fear criminals much more than the government. Criminals are much more of threat than the government.

    2. A third point that a lot of conservatives also say is that letting murders go free denies justice to the victims and there families. IMO, the number of criminals you would tolerate to go free is way to high. It is possible to endose the ideas that you (we) agree with and keep the number of criminals/ murders that go free to be much lower.

    I would like to explain (none / 0) (#19)
    by JamesTX on Sat May 30, 2009 at 04:14:26 PM EST
    my view on your points. You wrote,

    I fear criminals much more than the government. Criminals are much more of threat than the government.

    I realize you believe that, and it is one of the points on which we obviously disagree. That disagreement may actually play a larger role in our other differences than is immediately apparent. It is the premises we start with -- the underlying beliefs which we feed into our calculus -- which determines our overall opinions. I appreciate your willingness to tolerate my opinion, though, and I will certainly entertain yours.

    Earlier, I gave you my reasons for believing the opposite about the relative risk of governments and criminals. That was important. I will repeat them here because I am interested in your viewpoint. I mentioned that the reason I see the government as being more risky is because of certain facts about the possible strategies for management of risk, which I will explain below.

    I can physically defend myself against a criminal act. I can run from or avoid a person who is attempting to commit such an act. In the event the person committing the crime actually fits the conservative sterotype of "criminal" (machine-like repeat offender), then every crime he or she commits is a new opportunity to actually rightfully convict them. I can lock my door and avoid dangerous places. I can stay in groups with friends who protect each other. I can do many things to protect myself from crime. Sure, they may not always be effective, but the important point is that I have an array of options available for defending myself. My situation is not hopeless.

    On the other hand, I can't do much at all to protect myself from an unjust prosecutor or police officer. I can't run. I can't defend myself physically. I can't file charges against them and get help from the system. I am completely vulnerable prey for the government. There is no defense.

    For me, that means the government is a bigger risk than crime. That is how I arrived at my conclusion, and it is why I take that belief as a premise in reasoning about things like "n".

    You also mentioned this:

    A third point that a lot of conservatives also say is that letting murders go free denies justice to the victims and there families. IMO, the number of criminals you would tolerate to go free is way to high. It is possible to endose the ideas that you (we) agree with and keep the number of criminals/ murders that go free to be much lower.

    I have not discussed that issue so far, and it is probably because it is where my point of view is  weakest. I am not sure that I see the purpose of criminal prosecution as being the satisfaction of the victim. I am not a legal theorist, and I realize those ideas have proper names, but I am not going to try use terms I don't fully understand right now. I will just leave it at that. I think the purpose of criminal prosecution should be:

    (1) to take the necessary action to remove the person who commits a crime from the situation they are in to reduce the immediate threat for as long as is necessary,

    (2) to study the individual circumstances of the person's behavior and attempt to formulate a plan for how they are going to be managed, how and if they can be returned to society, and what intervention is needed to rehabilitate them and correct whatever led to their behavior.

    (3) to provide punishment with a clearly constructive goal, as a means of changing their behavior and forcing them to comprehend how they have transgressed the rights of others.

    You may find it odd that I think the government's role is to help its citizens even if they commit crimes. Strangely enough, that is what I believe. Government is a servant, not a master. Our form of government does not involve divine rights of kings. The government works for all of us, and owes all of us everything it is capable of giving. Government is never better than any of its citizens. The citizen, whether he or she has committed a crime or not, is always superior to the government. Government is supposed to always be on our side, even when we err. Government should never be our enemy. It serves the role of a loving parent.

    I do not view the purpose of the criminal justice process as being satisfaction of the victim's desire for revenge. Government should not serve the role of a torturer which breaks the offender's bones on the wheel for the satisfaction of the victim. There are other remedies in place for recovering what is due to the victim. If it is appropriate, there may be compensation ordered as part of a criminal penalty. Otherwise, the satisfaction of the victim is a civil case. The example you gave earlier about standards of proof and such made me think of O.J. Simpson. Ideally, that is how the victim's damages are addressed -- in the civil case. Criminal proceedings have a different purpose -- protection of the group and addressing the social problem in total. In the criminal case, the perpetrator's needs and rights matter, and should be taken into account. It is not just about harming them to serve the victim's anger. That approach does not serve the society well in the end, because in most cases we would like the person to want to return to society in a positive and productive role, and thus we would like for them to retain respect for the system. We do not want them to view society as an enemy. We do not want to forever alienate them. As such, the victim's needs are not the only consideration in criminal disposition. That idea has gotten way out of hand, and we are paying the price for it.

    In the civil case, the perpetrator's needs and circumstances play less of a role. That forum properly addresses the victim's damages and their rightful compensation. That is the place for "revenge" in a civilized and respectable way.

    What immediately comes up from a practical view is that you can't sue a poor person, and most people who are arrested for crimes are poor. Strangely enough, I think I will leave that question unanswered, because I think there is a message in it about justice.


    I would like to explain also :) (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by nyjets on Sat May 30, 2009 at 04:43:37 PM EST
    "On the other hand, I can't do much at all to protect myself from an unjust prosecutor or police officer. I can't run. I can't defend myself physically. I can't file charges against them and get help from the system. I am completely vulnerable prey for the government. There is no defense."
    On this point I see what you saying. I would have to agree, I fear both criminals and corrupt cops/prosectors. The problem is that the system does do a horrible job in policing itself. I think a good/honest cop/prosector is worth his/her weight in gold. The dishonest ones ruin the system and the way prosectors/cops police themselves is horrible. Cops do a horrible job in policing themselves ie blue wall of silence. And the mentality of a prosector to win at all cost can also pervert justice as well (In all fairness however, this menatlity can also effect all attornies.)
    The trick is not to fear government but to have a system that watches the watchers. Cops need MUCH stronger oversight. Prosectors have to be concerned with dealing justices, not just winning. We also need to put money in public defenders to help keep cops/ prosectors in check.

    As far as victims go, I do feel that punishing criminals is not venengence for the victim. Using your logic: person A can kill person B but as long as he will not hurt another person, he should not be punished. In my view, a MAJOR component of the criminal justice system is providing justice for the victim and therefore person A should go to jail.

    (For the record, I do not think you and I are THAT far off in our view points with the exception of the last point. )


    Therein lies (none / 0) (#21)
    by JamesTX on Sat May 30, 2009 at 11:08:05 PM EST
    the rub:

    The problem is that the system does do a horrible job in policing itself.

    Written in this way, it sounds like this is just a local or temporary problem that could easily be fixed with the right oversight. It isn't. It is the problem our founders struggled with, and it is fundamental. It is not just a matter of poorly designed oversight in our contemporary settings. The problem is ingrained in human nature itself, and is another side of the principle that power corrupts. Governments can never be relied on to "police themselves". The framers of our original documents knew that. The only way to reliably solve the problem is to limit the government's power to begin with.

    I do err toward leniency and constructive problem solving in criminal justice, but I don't think it is fair to say that murder should or ought to go unpunished under my reasoning. I just think the government should have motives beyond retribution, and punishment should not be the only goal. It isn't productive. What I do believe is that failure to punish every criminal act is not as serious of a problem as punishing people who don't deserve it. I didn't really say that one act should go unpunished. I said that one act does not guarantee that more acts of the same nature will occur. That is, one act doesn't warrant the assumption that the person is a criminal who will sort of automatically continue to repeat the act indefinitely. That is one of the most absurd myths of the conservative movement.

    The conservative idea is that people can be very simply divided into two classes: criminals and noncriminals. Each type is born into their class, and they stay that way throughout life. The conservative view is that these are the basic categories into which you can sort the population. Criminals are seen as being qualitatively different from noncriminals. The underlying assumption is that criminals will always commit crimes (are predisposed to do so), and that noncriminals will never commit crimes. Circumstances and environmental determinants are ignored. That is where conservatives fail to recognize the complex nature of life and the world. It simply isn't true.  There are some habitual offenders that have personalities which predispose them to criminal actions. I have known some people who are that way. The vast majority of people who commit crimes, though, are (or would be) one-time offenders who reacted badly to some specific circumstance. Unfortunately, the system is designed to encourage them to re-offend, both by frustrating their efforts to reintegrate into society, and by making a broader range of activities into crimes for that person because of their offender status alone. For example, the kid who is busted for drugs early on gets probation and gets gets drug tested, which means that they are likely to automatically re-offend because of behaviors that their peers may do with impunity. That creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of recidivism, which conservatives then claim as proof of their flawed belief that criminality is inherent in the person.

    No, I think there is a role for punishment in every case of murder where the perpetrator is proven guilty. What makes me different from the average American is that I don't believe one instance of criminal behavior guarantees that the person is a "life-long criminal" and guarantees that they will commit the act repetitively throughout their lives. That is the lie that the conservative attitude toward criminal justice is built on, and it is a blatantly false belief. It is the "Willy Horton" story that conservatives use to increase government power and decrease individual rights.

    I appreciate your discussion. It always helps when people allow me to articulate my position. I realize my beliefs are unpopular, but that is largely a function of the times and the effects of thirty years of conservative propaganda. One way I have maintained a level head is that I don't watch television, so the subtle messages of the thirty years of conservative propaganda have largely missed me. I appreciate your willingness to consider my arguments, although I realize I still look like a nut against the current background!


    Allow me to clarify (none / 0) (#22)
    by nyjets on Sun May 31, 2009 at 07:58:47 AM EST
    "Governments can never be relied on to 'police themselves'. "
    But it does not mean that the government should not try. It also requires citizens who act as the ulitmate guardians of the government and makes sure that the government does not over step its bounds. But that is another discussion. My point is that it is possible to police government.

    The thing is, I believe that some criminals should be punished and rehabiltation should not be considered a factor in some cases.Yes you are right, for some crimes, rehabilition is a worthwhile goal. Criminals who are drug users, petty thiefs,etc should be rehabiltated and I have no problem with that.
    However, for some criminals, rehabilitation should be moot because of the crimes itself. Most murders and rapists should never be allowed out of jail. Many of the white collar criminals should never be allowed out of jail. For those people, there crimes are so bad,they should NEVER be allowed out.
    Also, while I will agree that environment can influence a person to commit crimes, I have always beleived that personal responsiblity trumps environment. Also, I think a person nature can influence them to be predisposed to commit crimes. For example, I can kind of accept the notion that environment that a bad environment may cause a person to commit minor acts of theft (ie survival). However, bad environment should not be used to justify acts of violence.
    Basically, I do feel that for minor acts of crimes, enviroment and certain social situations can influence a person. BUt not for serious crimes. Furthermore, for serious crimes, it should not be used to mitgate a sentence. IOW, a person who murders someone should do life prison regardless if the person is from a lower, middle, or upper class.


    I understand your (none / 0) (#23)
    by JamesTX on Sun May 31, 2009 at 03:41:08 PM EST
    position and I understand the logic. I realize it is what is considered the bare bones and widely accepted truth about criminal justice nowadays. I just disagree. And I appreciate your willingness to accept that without calling me names -- which is how the conservative movement got us to the current state of affairs!

    I think it is a mistake to tie sentences too inflexibly to specific crimes. The mandatory sentencing nightmare has demonstrated the problems with that. When we make those pronouncements in advance, we are doing so based on some imagined generic scenario which is assumed to be true for all crimes in the class, and that imagined scenario is used to reason about all crimes in that category. That is bad reasoning in criminal policy. Every case and every offense is different -- always. Life is complicated. Every perpetrator and every victim is different. Every situation is different. Sometimes even murder and rape are somewhat understandable given the circumstances. I won't go into those circumstances, because there are many possibilities. I don't think it would necessarily enhance our discussion here to do so. It is just important to understand there are infinite varieties of complex circumstances which the criminal justice reasoning process should be sensitive to. There will always be a very wide range of outcomes called for with any specific crime.

    I appreciate your discussion. I would like to leave you with a recommendation for a movie. Please watch Sling Blade if you haven't seen it. In return, I will be glad to read or view anything you suggest which supports your point of view.

    It has been a pleasure discussing this with you. Perhaps we could continue this in another forum, such as a diary dedicated to a specific topic (I think we got off topic here!). Feel free to suggest a topic, if you wish, or post a diary. If you suggest the the topic, I will cut and paste it to a diary. I would also participate in any diary on a related topic which you post.


    A nit to pick (none / 0) (#14)
    by Rojas on Sat May 30, 2009 at 08:16:03 AM EST
    I believe you do a disservice to your thesis when you identify these authoritarian tendancies as manifest only with conservitive philosophies.
    While the march to the abys may have started in earnest with the Reagan revolution, it became an all out sprint during the Clinton years with the new Democrats rushing to out flank the old guard with some of the worst authoritarian principals imaginable. Those who pointedly questioned the direction we were taking were dismissed a extreamists(left or right) and a threat to the status quo.

    I do not share your optimism that the Bush administration represents a point of demarcation. Mostly I see the ire against Bush as escapism and I really don't believe things will improve until people adress and reject the authoritarian tendencies that have wrought so much destruction to liberties at home and abroad.


    I agree with (none / 0) (#17)
    by JamesTX on Sat May 30, 2009 at 01:33:41 PM EST
    you that the Clinton administration was not a liberal administration. I think Clinton tried to hold damage to a minimum, but realized he had to endorse conservatism to hold office. Yes, our Democrats have been very confused over the last two decades. They still are in many cases. The reason is that their philosophy has been portrayed as totally unacceptable -- not just unpopular. It will take a long time for liberal thought to re-emerge. Even when the population shows a clear preference for change, their systems can't be shocked that severely. We are so far to the right that even moderate social policy sounds ridiculously leftist. I agree there is no guarantee we are really going back this time. In fact, there are many good reasons to predict not!

    Is this really an appropriate sentense for murder? (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Mitch Guthman on Fri May 29, 2009 at 03:20:37 PM EST
    Well, okay then, if his lawyer says he's innocent that's enough for me and it ought to be enough for everybody else,too!  We owe this poor man an apology for putting him through the indignity of a trial.  Now that his lawyer has proclaimed his innocence we should free him immediately!

    But seriously, is this really an appropriate sentence for murder?  There were no mitigating circumstances that I could see (apart from wealth and fame) for such a lenient sentence. As near as I can tell, he really did shoot her just to watch her die.

    I'm not familiar with the maximums for this category of murder in California but even at 2:1 he's out in 7 years, eight tops.  And my memory is that when you add up all the available credits, California was somewhere around 3:1 or 4:1 so he really could end up serving just two or three years behind this.  Was this really the maximum?  Doesn't seem right.  

    Is anybody here knowledgeable enough about the ins and out of California sentencing to calculate how much time he'll actually have to do?  

    A lesson on California sentencing (none / 0) (#3)
    by Pettifogger on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:07:13 PM EST
    The quick and dirty is that Phil Spector will have 19 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

    Here's how it works. California Penal Code section 190 says that every person guilty of murder in the second degree shall be punished in the state prison for a term of 15 years to life. That's the only option. A judge can't bring it down. A judge can't bring it up.

    Any time there's a "x to life" sentence, that's called an indeterminate sentence in California. It's not a definite number of years. The x number is the number of years before the person is eligible for parole. Whether someone gets released is up to the parole board. It's not the decision of the judge.

    There's a sentencing enhancement for use of a firearm under Penal Code section 12022.5. It's +3, +4, or +10. The presumptive is +4. Given the circumstances, a judge could have picked +3 or +10.  So 15+4=19 years.

    I personally find this a bit odd, because in most murder cases, the defendant is charged with a different sentencing enhancement, Penal Code section 12022.53(c), use of a firearm resulting in death for violent felonies, which would have added 25 years. Most 2nd-degree murders with firearms usually are 40-to-life.

    Most people in California prisons do get some goodtime credits. Penal Code section 2933 gives 1 day credit for 1 day in custody. So sentences get halved. The only way to get out faster is to do "fire camp". A large amount of people who help out in California fires are prisoners. They get 2 days of credit for every day they're in fire camp. However, fire camp is only available to a small number of prisoners. It's usually for the people doing 16-month stints. If you were previously convicted of a "strike" offense, credit is capped at 20%, so you have to do 80%. If you're convicted of a violent felony, credits are capped at 15%, so you must do 85% of the time. Penal Code section 2933.2 says defendants convicted of murder get no credits.

    So Phil Spector will have to do all 19 years before he is even eligible for parole. However, most murderers in California prisons do no get parole. Even if the parole board finds in their favor, the Governor usually overrides. That's been discussed before on TalkLeft.


    No more work time? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Mitch Guthman on Fri May 29, 2009 at 07:47:07 PM EST
    Well, I'm glad to hear that Phil Spector will be doing the maximum.  He certainly deserves it, even though I personally thought he received very poor representation (including his useless "experts") for the money he spent on the first trial (which is the one that sunk him).

    On the other hand, I'm very surprised to hear that California has eliminated work-time.  It was an incentive to behave and also helped people to learn something of a work ethic.  Sorry to see it go.  I assume that they are also getting rid of all the educational/socialization programs too?  


    Goodtime credits is worktime (none / 0) (#10)
    by Pettifogger on Sat May 30, 2009 at 12:03:19 AM EST
    The goodtime credits is the worktime credits. Or training or participating in any of the other programs in prison. It can be taken away for bad behavior, which is it's also referred to as goodtime credits.

    19 to life, not 19 years (none / 0) (#9)
    by MrConservative on Fri May 29, 2009 at 10:46:52 PM EST
    I think you're confusing parole for a normal sentence (which would allow him to be set free in 7 years) with parole for a life sentence (which is spelled out in the name of the sentence).  If he were sentenced to 19 years, it would be 7 to 19 years.  If he were sentenced to 19 years to life, it's 19 years to life.

    And people convicted of murder in California, even the least heinous cases, are almost never paroled.  Gray Davis had a no parole under any circumstances rule, and the governator allows it very sparingly.


    I blame the gun. (none / 0) (#12)
    by Mikeb302000 on Sat May 30, 2009 at 07:12:45 AM EST
    That's a joke.  But, actually I think major maniacs like Phil Spector, who abuse women and use firearms to do so, are not as uncommon as we think. Then you've got all the minor maniacs who own guns. It's a jungle out there and all the guns is making it worse.

    That's my take on it.

    Time for Phil to work (none / 0) (#15)
    by TomStewart on Sat May 30, 2009 at 10:37:04 AM EST
    on the 'Prison Wall of Sound'.