The other Marissa Alexanders

The case of Marissa Alexander provoked outrage, but the excessive sentence handed down to this Florida mother is far from an anomaly.

Marissa Alexander

The case of Marissa Alexander has been fairly widely reported. It has now been revealed that her retrial has been scheduled for March 31. Whether or not her conviction is upheld, it is to be hoped that common sense will prevail and that her sentence will be substantially reduced.

If you thought it was outrageous that a woman should received a 20 year sentence for discharging a gun under such circumstances, how about a life sentence for a woman who forced a 13 year old boy to touch her breast?

Such was the fate of Michelle Lyn Taylor three years ago in Nevada. She will have to serve a minimum of ten years before she is considered for parole. Here is the video of her being sentenced; some defense attorneys will go the extra mile for their clients, but it is not often that a lawyer will literally burst into tears when pleading for one. Granted that Taylor’s advocate was a woman, and you really could hear the violins playing in the background as she gave it her all about what a terrible time her client had had throughout her miserable life, but even if one rejects all this, it is difficult to see how this kind of Draconian sentence can he warranted. The sentencing judge was clearly not unsympathetic, but pointed out that he was powerless to hand down anything but the maximum as required by law.

In 1995, Jerry Dewayne Williams was given a 15 year sentence under California’s notorious 3 strikes law for snatching a slice of pizza from a child. This may be the act of a bully and a thug, but did it really warrant a life sentence? This case and the three strikes law is actually not that simple, and Williams is now back on the street, but Michelle Taylor is unlikely to be released in less than ten years, ditto Marissa Alexander if her sentence is not reduced.

These sentences are all the more remarkable and unjust when one considers some of the sentences handed down for crimes that can only be described as heinous. In 1978, Larry Singleton raped a 14 year old girl, chopped off her arms and left her for dead. He was given a 14 year sentence, was back on the street in a mere 8 years, and went on to commit a murder. This year, Branden Riddle-Terrel was given an eleven year sentence after being allowed to cop a plea for voluntary manslaughter; the victim was stabbed 18 times. This was in Nevada, the same state that imposed a life sentence on Michelle Lyn Taylor. This begs the question, which of the two, him or her, would you rather meet in a dark alley?

[The above op-ed was first published November 12, 2013. In January 2019, Michelle Lyn Taylor’s sentence was upheld on appeal. Larry Singleton’s victim was actually 15 years old; this is a notorious case; don’t research it unless you have a strong stomach.]

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