Darrent Williams Murder: Willie Clark Sentenced to Life Plus 1,000 Years

Willie Clark, convicted of the murder of Denver Bronco Darrent Williams, was sentenced today to life in prison plus 1,152 years.

Clark got an additional 1,152 years in prison for the 16 attempted murder charges and the sentencing enhancements for his habitual criminal history.

"Mr. Clark, I will simply say from where I sit, barring a retrial of this issue, you are spending your life in prison and you too can be a good person and make a change and make a difference with your life however it turns out," Judge Christina M. Habas said.

If there's a point to such a sentence, it escapes me. Colorado law mandates life without parole for first degree murder, that wasn't in doubt. Clark asked to be absent from his sentencing and the judge refused, saying he had to listen to the victims' witness impact statements. Why? According to the Judge: [More..]

Given the enormity of this crime … I am finding in favor of the idea that the victims' rights include the right to be able to make statements and address the court in the presence of the defendant."

Clark filed a waiver of his right to be present last Friday. His lawyer says:

Given that this is an academic exercise in terms of the number of years that the court has to impose … and given Mr. Clark's constitutional right to be present at any critical stage in the proceeding, he explicitly waives his right to be present for sentencing."

Before imposing sentence today, they had a mini-trial to have Clark declared a habitual offender due to his prior convictions:

One was a 2006 felony theft conviction in Denver, the other was a 2004 aggravated assault conviction in Texas.

The effect of the habitual conviction:

It allowed prosecutors to multiply by three times the 24-year penalty for each of the 16 attempted murder counts for which Clark has been convicted. The total: 1,152 years on top of the life sentence.

They aren't done with Willie Clark yet either. He goes on trial with two other people for murdering a witness in a drug case in a few months.

Update on the issue of Clark being forced to attend: The hearing was televised.

1:50 p.m.: Judge Christina Habas rules that Clark has to sit in the courtroom. She says she doesn't want to deny the victims the "cathartic" effect of addressing the court in Clark's presence.

1:55 p.m.: Hutt asks Habas to reconsider her decision. "This is someone who has maintained his innocence," he says of Clark. "He knows he's about to be sentenced to life without parole plus 1,100 or 1,200 years for something he didn't do.

"The only purpose of this [sentencing] is the theater of venting."

Habas declines to reconsider. "There may be people in this room who view this as a spectacle or a circus," she says, "but I'm not one of them."

Clearly Clark wasn't going to show remorse when he insists he didn't do it and is appealing his conviction, which is his legal right. The victims would have made their statements and the public would have heard them regardless of whether he was present. Forcing a defendant to be on television is wrong. Cameras in the courtroom should be allowed only if the defendant consents.
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    ok, i figured either: (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Sat May 01, 2010 at 01:53:50 AM EST
    a. mr. clark is a one man criminal entity, and the crime rate in CO will drop by 1/3, upon his incarceration for, well, ever and ever., or

    b. judge habas just might have ulterior motives.

    turns out it's........wait for it.................b! as it so happens, judge habas is under consideration for a federal judgeship in CO.

    that's not to suggest she was playing to the camera or anything..................

    I'm sorry... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Sat May 01, 2010 at 09:46:49 AM EST
    anything over life plus 1000 years is excessive.

    And we're supposed to treat the criminal justice system with respect?  What a joke you are, Judge Habas.

    The joke's on us... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Sat May 01, 2010 at 10:38:51 AM EST
    ...when people resort to shooting someone because they feel like they got "disrespected".  

    As if pulling the trigger somehow makes you a big man.  


    You ain't kiddin'... (none / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Sat May 01, 2010 at 10:58:58 AM EST
    and talk about adding insult to injury when judges play the same game in their "civilized" way.

    "excessive" (none / 0) (#7)
    by diogenes on Sat May 01, 2010 at 11:45:39 AM EST
    A thousand year sentence is not cruel and unusual punishment, but it does make it more politically difficult for him to try to appeal for "clemency" in twenty years when the victims' families will have put this behind them.  Maybe that was the judge's point.

    There's a point? (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Sat May 01, 2010 at 11:55:39 AM EST
    Here I am thinking since the longest any man has ever lived is a buck and change, there was no point at all except to appear like a big tough lawman.

    If that's the concern, why not just be honest and ban clemency in our code, instead of playing games that make a mockery of sentencing.


    "ban clemency" (none / 0) (#10)
    by diogenes on Sat May 01, 2010 at 05:08:21 PM EST
    Actually, this sentence allows the judge express a judicial judgment that this criminal is much less deserving than one who gets the "usual" life without parole.  Perhaps some lifers deserve clemency.  Maybe this guy will.  But this judge has put in his opinion.

    life without parole is mandated (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jeralyn on Sun May 02, 2010 at 01:50:14 AM EST
    by law for first degree murder. It's the maximum one can serve, and one doesn't get out except in a pine box. Judges don't give clemency. Governors and the President grant clemency and pardons. There's no difference in the actual time Clark will serve between a sentence of lwop and 1100 years. It's a feel-good sentence with no meaning.

    And the judge is a "she."


    When people get to the point (none / 0) (#9)
    by jondee on Sat May 01, 2010 at 01:19:55 PM EST
    at which they believe the only "respect", dignity and hope available to them is the kind of negative respect people have for lightening and tigers, this is one of the results.

    "As a man thinketh..etc"



    This sentence (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Sun May 02, 2010 at 07:21:33 AM EST
    is extreme, to say the least. LWOP should be it, even if a point was being made.  But I have no problem with him listening to victim impact statements.  Why would anybody have a problem with that?  If it were up to me, he'd have to listen to them day in and day out and watch videos of the people he's harmed 24-7.  That is in no way "cruel and unusual" as his victims don't get to go back to normal and move on.  To listen to the statements in court is certainly the very least he can do.

    Your view (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by Jeralyn on Sun May 02, 2010 at 10:25:44 AM EST
    is directly contrary to the views of this site, as are most of your comments on crime issues. As well you know. My patience is wearing thin with them. You are going to be limited in the number of comments you make if you keep it up. See the comment rules ("Comments intended to annoy....") There are many sites dedicated to crime victims. This one isn't. Please make these kind of comments elsewhere.