The theme for today's opinions from the California Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit may revolve around the duality of man.
Take Daniel Landry. He's sentenced to death, and you can easily see why. He's already serving a sentence of 25 years to life when he kills a fellow prisoner by cutting his throat. It's a premeditated crime, and hardly Mr. Landry's first. He's a Nazi Low Rider and it's hard to deter future misconduct in prison absent sentencing someone like this to death. So you can see why Mr. Landry might well be seen as a monster as well; someone who needs to be "put down" before he kills yet again.
At the same time, Mr. Landry wasn't always like that. He was a child once. And his childhood was a nightmare, and undoubtedly profoundly influenced what he would become in the future. Both of his parents were deaf, and his mother had serious issues herself; she set a ton of fires as a kid, and then "attacked a pregnant neighbor
with a knife while the woman was showering and her husband was mowing the
lawn." She married Gary when she was 20 or 21, but there was a ton of fighting -- and I mean, a ton. And it clearly affected the future Mr. Landry:
"Linda [his mother] was a drug user and extremely neglectful mother. When members
of her family would visit, they would discover defendant alone in his play pen,
hoarse from crying and yelling. No one had responded to his cries. Linda‟s
family installed a light-flickering system to alert her when defendant was crying.
The house was filthy and defendant crawled on a floor littered with broken glass
and curdled milk. When he was old enough to walk, defendant would get out of
his crib and wander the neighborhood. His grandparents, who lived nearby, once
discovered him asleep beneath their car. Another time, he was found scavenging
for food in the neighbor's garbage cans.
When defendant was four years old, he went to live with his grandparents.
. . . When defendant first went to live with his
grandparents, he did not talk, but grunted and pointed. He had nightmares and
hoarded food beneath his bed. When he returned to his grandparents, they took
him to mental health professionals because he seemed inaccessible. He continued
to receive psychiatric care, including hospitalization, throughout his childhood and
You can see why Mr. Landry was depressed and suicidal. And, perhaps, why (in part) he became the person he eventually became.
The one we sentence to death.