Tuesday, June 07, 2005

19 year-old gets life sentence for helping girlfriend end pregnancy


This is disturbing. A 19 year-old youth helped his 17 year-old girlfriend abort twin fetuses. She punched herself in the abdomen while he stood on her, causing the miscarriage. He gets life in prison and she cannot be charged because, under Texas law, she has a legal right to an abortion.

Then, there is this. Remember Lori Hacking? She disappeared in Utah and her husband, Mark Hacking, later confessed to shooting her in the head while she slept and dumping her body at the local landfill because she found out that he was lying about being accepted to medical school. Oh yes, she was pregnant at the time and the fetus did not survive, making this a double homicide. He just received 6 years to life. Probably eligible for parole in, say, 3 years or so.

So a panicky 19 year-old in Texas gets a mandatory life sentence for helping his willing girlfriend induce the miscarriage of twin fetuses and a cold blooded murderer in Utah gets 6 years to life. Ah, justice in America.

Linked to: XRLQ

UPDATE: email from Eugene Volokh.
Hmm -- according to the story you pointed to, the judge in the Hacking case said "it would be a long time before she would recommend his release to the parole board." I don't know Utah practices, but I suspect that he'll have to serve a lot more than 3 years, and even than 6 years. Or am I mistaken?

As to "justice in America," what you point to is indeed an inherent aspect of the American justice system: Different states have different laws, with Texas apparently going for a more mandatory approach, while Utah prefers to set a relatively indeterminate sentence, and then leave parole officials (and apparently the sentencing judge, who will be consulted by parole officials) with more discretion to consider the circumstances of the offense, the later behavior of the convict, and so on. But that's not a bug, it seems to me -- it's a feature: Different states should indeed have broad latitude in experimenting with different approaches, and with implementing different worldviews.

Thanks for the response, Prof. Volokh. I understand quite well the variance from state to state in law and its application. I might even tend to agree that this variety is a feature. It does allows states to study and monitor the application of law in other states and modify/improve/avoid problems in the home state. That does not change the fact that a 19 year old who no doubt committed a crime goes to prison for life and a self-confessed cold blooded murderer has at least the possibility of parole in 6 years or less.

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