Monday, November 28, 2011

People v. Dement (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Nov. 28, 2011)

The opinion took a long time to load, comes from the California Supreme Court, and has the word "People" in the caption.  Which suggested to me that it's likely (1) a death penalty case, (2) that's unanimously affirmed.

Right on both counts.

Some tangential points.  First, the defendant gets convicted of a death penalty murder offense.  As well as oral copulation in a detention facility.  Seems like the latter is piling on.

Second, the case provides yet another good reason why you don't want to go to jail.  For anything.  Ever.  Greg Andrews gets sent to jail and, as he and the other new inmates arrive, the defendant says to a nearby inmate (referring to Andrews):  "I hope they don't move him in my cell.  If they do, I'm going to do him."  "Do" as in "kill".  And, as (bad) luck has it, Andrews does indeed get assigned to the defendant's cell.  Defendant's upset because it's a three-bunk cell already occupied by three people, and there's allegedly only two people in a cell on a lower tier.  So defendant decides to invoke a self-help remedy to prison overcrowding.  So kills Andrews that night.

Argument Number One Thousand as to why you should stay out of jail.

Finally, what I just said apparently goes double for the Fresno County jail.  What could possibly be going on there?!  The murder of Andrews doesn't happen quickly.  It takes a long time.  Defendant drinks some pruno in his jail cell.  He starts slapping defendant in their cell (once everyone's locked down for the evening).  He interrogates him.  He rips off his boxer shorts.  He forces him to kiss his genitals.  He starts hitting him again.  He slams him against the cell lockers.  Andrews starts screaming.  Defendant starts choking him with a towel.  The cellmates pull defendant off, and another uses a call button to alert the officers to contact the cell.  Remember:  All this is happening right out in the open, in a jail cell, no less.

The officer dutifully gets on the speaker and asks what's up, at which point defendant asks him what time it is, and the officer tells him.  Inquiry finished.  So defendant then again wraps the towel around Andrews and starts choking him a second time.  The cellies again try to stop him.  Another pause and discussion.  Then defendant starts jumping on Andrews.  Starts choking him for a third time.  Finally killing him.

What are the jailhouse guards doing all of this?  Nothing.  Or at least nothing relevant.  No inquiry.  No looking at the cells.  No hearing the screams -- screams which other inmates hear (and so testify at the defendant's trial).  An hour or so after the murder, it's breakfast time.  At which point the guards open up the cells and everyone leaves.  You'd think at this point they'd at least notice the dead body.  Nope.  That happens only after the cellies return to the cell from breakfast call and use the contact button to say:  "There's a dead body in the cell."  Then the guards show up.

Defendant, by the way, is hardly an angel.  He beat his wife.  He murdered his brother.  He committed a variety of other offenses.  Thank goodness he's virtually unsupervised.  How shocking that the jury sentences him to death.  Apparently being unpersuaded that the rigors of prison will prevent him from killing in a detention facility yet again.

In the spirit of the season, I will now add to my prior refrain from Thursday the following:  "And I also give thanks that during this past year I did not find myself in a local jail.  Lord, if you are willing, please make that continue to be the case during the upcoming year as well."

Happy Thanksgiving.