Monday, December 12, 2016

People v. Landry (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Dec. 12, 2016)

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 adolescence."

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.