Friday, May 13, 2011

The Absurdity of Criminal Sentencing

Ok, so nobody needs to reiterate for the billionth time the remarkable absurdity regarding criminal sentences – especially when children are the victims. But I would like to point out, once more, just how ridiculous (and varying) criminal sentences can be.

Today it was announced that Angeles Cadillo-Castro (pictured below) was sentenced for the beating death of her five-year-old daughter.

See the story:

The prosecutor stated that it was the worst beating case he has ever seen in his thirty years, and testimony showed that it probably took about an hour for the young girl to die – she eventually bled to death from being beaten with various kitchen utensils (beaten for an hour, mind you). Cadillo-Castro’s sentence? Five-to-life. Now, this might be a fair sentence – it’s hard to say – after all, it contains the possibility of life in prison (so this might satisfy some) while also not containing a very harsh minimum (which may satisfy others). But let’s consider this sentence in light of other criminal cases.

Cadillo-Castro’s charges of beating her daughter to death for a long duration are strikingly similar to another familiar case that is still ongoing in Utah – namely, the case of Stephanie and Nathan Sloop.

See the story:

The major difference is that the Sloop’s buried their son (step-son of Nathan) after killing him, whereas Cadillo-Castro didn’t bury her daughter’s body. But – and this is mere speculation – I have this nagging feeling that the Sloop’s are not going to get a five-to-life sentence. In fact, at last reporting, prosecutors were looking at the option of seeking the death penalty. But they committed nearly the same crime as Cadillo-Castro – albeit while being quite a highly publicized affair.

But let’s focus on Cadillo-Castro’s five-to-life sentence. This sentence is identical to that of Michael J. Pratt, a Utah Seminary teacher, who received the exact same sentence for having consensual sex with a sixteen-year-old girl.

See the story:

Granted, there was a lot of other factors involved in this affair (including manipulation, abuse of authority, among other things), and I’m not passing any judgment about whether or not Pratt’s sentence was too harsh or not harsh enough, but I am pointing out the odd fact that having sex with a minor – which was consensual at the time – can draw the same sentence as a mother beating her child to death. (Had Pratt beaten this sixteen-year-old to death rather than manipulating her into a sexual relationship, would he have received a worse sentence?)

Moreover, and even more peculiar, is the case of Linda Nef, who received three-to-life for her crime.

See the story:

What did Nef do to receive nearly the same sentence as the woman who beat her daughter to death? She had consensual sex with a thirteen-year-old boy. Granted, this is appalling, but similarly as appalling as if she beat the boy to death? Even more interesting about this case is the fact that not only did the boy’s parents forgive Nef, but the parents and the prosecutor asked the judge to sentence Nef only to probation because she confessed to the crime in an attempt to try and make things right – to repent, as it were. She came forward on her own, without being a suspect, and confessed, plead guilty, apologized, and so forth, but received nearly an equal sentence to a woman who beat her daughter for an hour until she bled to death. Odd to say the least.

However, some of you may be thinking to yourself: “well, these sentences are both appropriate, since consensual sex – when manipulated or underage – are just as bad as beating one’s own daughter to death. The judge got it right." But if you are thinking that, then consider these two cases of sexual abuse of minors.

First, Melinda Deluca had sex with one of her students, but only received 90 days in jail.

See the story:

Furthermore, Deluca later lied about being beaten, just for some more sympathy (as if she hadn’t received enough)?

See the story:

And finally, the infamous case of Debra Lafave.

See the story:

This woman had sex with a fourteen-year-old student (and, mind you, didn’t confess or initially plead guilty), and received… NO JAIL/PRISON SENTENCE AT ALL, but rather a few months house arrest and a few years probation. And, as if that’s already not fair, her sentence was later reduced!

See story here:

I guess the first sentence was just to harsh for her to bear… let’s not worry about the woman who received three-to-LIFE for doing the exact same thing (while noting that the child was thirteen rather than fourteen).

Certainly there are many factors that go into each of these cases, but do such factors warrant such a varying (or strikingly similar) range of sentences? Is consensual – albeit manipulated – sex with a minor equally as wrong (and thus deserving of equal punishment) as beating one’s own five-year-old child to death for over an hour? If so, why do some people get five-to-life or three-to-life while others get a reduction of their probation sentence? There are certainly some reasons (attractiveness, media attention, etc.) but how are judges coming to their sentencing decisions? And why is this still allowed to happen?