Friday, December 22, 2006

People v. Isom (Cal. Ct. App. - Dec. 21, 2006)

Once again, I must first go on record. I do not support touching little girls. It's bad. It's wrong. Don't do it.

Everyone clear on that? Good.

Now, with that in mind, take a look at this case. Which concerns Jeffrey Allen Isom. Who's definitely messed up in the head. On July 3, 2003 (the day before Independence Day), he's hanging out in a grocery store when he sees a 12-year old girl standing with her grandmother looking at birthday cards. So he walks past her and, while doing so, slides his hand across her bottom for a second, and then keeps on walking down the aisle. The girl promptly tells her grandmother that a man just accidentally touched her bottom, and that's that. Then, a short time later, he again walks by the same 12-year old girl and slides his hand across her bottom, and this time also adds a little pinch. During roughly the same time period, Isom sees a 10-year old girl who's with her own grandmother in a different aisle, and he goes up to the 10-year old and gives her a surreptitious pinch on her bottom as well.

Isom then promptly leaves the store, and is sitting in the parking lot when the two grandmothers -- having been told what just transpired by their granddaughters -- compare notes and call the police, who arrest Isom in the parking lot. Isom is subsequently convicted for his two butt-pinches and one butt-slide.

Which, I hasten to add, is precisely as it should be. That's the easy part. But let me ask you the harder query. What should Isom's sentence be? Sure, sure, I know. It depends on his priors, his mental state, the nature of the pinches, etc. etc. But based upon what you know, what would you do with the guy? Order treatment? Probation? 90 days in jail? A year in prison? Multiple years? What? Would it make a difference to your conclusion were you to know that if the girls had been over 14 years of age, the three touchings could only have been charged as misdemeanors? What's the appropriate result?

Do you have your answer? Good. Now let me tell you what Isom's actual sentence was. 115 years to life. Which Justice Hull affirms against multiple challenges on appeal.

There's a lot of good stuff in this case, including a very interesting discussion regarding whether certain (highly prejudicial) uncharged conduct was properly admitted. Don't forget to also read Justice Blease's dissent, which is excellent as well.

It's a great case to get you thinking. Regardless of the merits of the holding, I'm glad they decided to publish it.