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Thief's life sentence without parole for property crime cruel and unusual punishment, Georgia Court of Appeal ruled

Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 6:59 PM
Last updated Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 4:14 PM
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The Georgia Court of Appeals wrote in a recent decision that a judge went too far in sending someone to prison, a ruling that is extremely rare but is welcomed by some in the Augusta legal community.

Davis  Special
Special
Davis


On Nov. 29, judges wrote that Undreas Davis’ 150-year prison sentence without the possibility of parole for property crimes was “grossly disproportionate to his crimes, shocking the conscience and constituting cruel and unusual punishment.”

To criminal defense lawyers Pete Theodocion and Charles Lyons in Augusta, the decision was long overdue. Giving someone a life sentence for nonviolent crimes is a waste of taxpayer money, they said.

“We can’t afford it, and frankly we don’t have the room,” Theodocion said.

Because of increased mandatory minimum sentences and changes in the parole system, people convicted of violent crimes are spending more time behind bars, leaving little room for others, Theodocion said.

The sentencing reform wave rolling across the country reached Georgia this year, and a new law went into effect this summer that reduced potential prison sentences for many drug and property crimes. It also increased the establishment of specialty courts, such as the drug court in the Augusta Judicial Circuit that has been operating for four years.

Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. has shepherded the drug court in Augusta since its beginning.

“I’m a firm believer in accountability courts,” he said.

The program costs just under $4 a day per person compared with $45-55 a day for a jail cell, he said. It’s not just the financial issue; the court is saving lives and reuniting families, Blanchard said. So far, 57 people have graduated from drug court.

According to the state Depart­ment of Corrections, more than 52,000 people are in prison at a cost of around $19,000 per inmate last year.

About half of the inmates committed nonviolent crimes.

In contrast, the state government spent $9,827 in 2009 to educate one student for the year, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s most recent Kids Count study.

District Attorney Ashley Wright recognizes the high cost of incarceration in Georgia – and the high rate of repeat offenders.

“I agreed that low-level offenders are not necessarily the ones that we want to spend our dollars on, but repeat offenders should not be given a green light to commit crimes with no fear of meaningful consequences,” she wrote in an e-mail.

That some people are thieves or drug addicts who won’t change is true, Theodocion and Lyons agreed, but prison doesn’t change them or deter anyone else, they said.

Davis, who had previous felony convictions for property crimes, was convicted in Douglas County of three counts of theft and 12 counts of identity fraud. The judge sentenced him to 150 years, telling him at his 2009 sentencing hearing: “You will never victimize anyone again, sir, because you’ll be in prison for the rest of your life.”

Two weeks after its initial ruling, the appeals court found there wasn’t proof Davis had three prior felony convictions – the legal trigger for a prison sentence without the possibility of parole.

Lyons questioned the fairness that someone convicted of such crimes in Douglas County gets 150 years when the same person might get two years in Fulton County or 10 in Richmond County. The fairness is also an issue for state taxpayers, he said.

Wright agreed that although the prison costs can become pointless, sometimes it’s about more than money.

“Family heirlooms can be valued monetarily, but they cannot be replaced,” she said. “A working jalopy that gets the owner to work, the grocery, and church is far more valuable than $500 and a car payment. The emotional impact on the victim of a residential burglary is unmeasurable and lasting.”

Comments (31)

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itsanotherday1
34572
Points
itsanotherday1 12/27/12 - 01:17 am
13
2

If they are a chronic

If they are a chronic offender, I don't think there is much choice but to lock them up for a long time; violent or not.

Ashley has it "Wright": but repeat offenders should not be given a green light to commit crimes with no fear of meaningful consequences,”

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 12/27/12 - 02:46 am
14
1

Finally somebody said it...

"The emotional impact on the victim of a residential burglary is unmeasurable and lasting.”
And that is so true. Insurance payments can't replace items of sentimental value, nor do they replace the owners sense of security in their own home. People don't want to call burglaries a violent crime, but they are risky for both homeowner and thief.

specsta
5701
Points
specsta 12/27/12 - 02:46 am
5
10

Wisdom From The Court

The Georgia Court of Appeal made the right decision - we need more judges like this that have common sense.

Prison and jail should be for violent people - period.

It is amazing that I can go online and find out if there is someone in my neighborhood who is a "sex offender", with there being no distinction between a teen who "sexted" their boy/girl friend or someone who exposed themselves urinating in public - or someone who physically violated a child or adult. YET, I could have a convicted murderer who was paroled, living next door, and I would never know the difference.

Consider that even the gangster Al Capone wasn't locked up for the numerous murderers he orchestrated (St. Valentine's Massacre) - but for tax evasion. It was easier to lock up a known criminal for a non-violent crime, rather than a violent one, even back in the 1930's.

The justice system is corrupt, unequal and unfair. Non-violent folks are locked up for decades on drug possession or other charges, and murderers and rapists walk free after a few years. Look no further than the murderer in New York state who killed two firefighters in a hail of bullets - after being paroled for beating his 92-year-old grandmother to death.

Violent criminals have no place in our society. To coddle someone who has no hesitation to use fists, knives, guns, torture, etc. against another human being is just wrong. These are the folks law enforcement needs to take off our streets.

A hungry father who shoplifts a few items from the grocery store, a teenager who makes the wrong decision to use and buy illegal drugs, or a prostitute trying to make a few dollars should be the lowest priority for law enforcement operations. The criminal I am worried about is the thug who will kill me and go home and eat a sandwich like nothing happened - not someone who can pay restitution, receive counseling and make amends for the error of their ways.

The justice system is long overdue for an complete overhaul.

Humble Angela
41338
Points
Humble Angela 12/27/12 - 07:24 am
9
3

Good to know specta. If

Unpublished

Good to know specsta. If someone steals something from you time after time, we won't lock them up. It's good to know that you don't mind giving them every chance in the world to keep committing their non-violent crimes on you.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/27/12 - 08:16 am
6
0

I like the idea of

I saw being toyed around with a DOJ Test site some years ago.

Using a 24/7 GPS Ankle tracking device on non-violent criminals that have been placed under electronic arrest. It was possible to track a criminals whereabouts 24/7 to within 3 feet of where he / she has been.

If they go any place they should not have, they get called in immediately yes even at 3am, for a P.O. interview and possible immediate jail time.

It also afforded the ability of a Computer to review GPS Ankle tracking data and compare it with reported crime data.

If there is a crime match, the plan was to have a team of LEO's pick up the guilty parties in a highly visible, high profile manner.

It was shelved due to possible Big Brother outcries at the time.

But for some reason I don't see this administration worrying about that issue.

Truth Matters
5179
Points
Truth Matters 12/27/12 - 08:21 am
6
1

Crimes

It is a crime to steal, but I have never known a white collar criminal, save B. Madoff under public pressure and his violation of many rich clients, get that kind of sentence. Their lawyers would have them free before the ink dries on the warrant papers.

If you steal from me, I want $$ ____restitution first and foremost.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 12/27/12 - 08:34 am
5
1

When Society Can't or Won't Afford Punishment

It a clear sign that society needs to be able to individually protect itself .

Quoting
“We can’t afford it, and frankly we don’t have the room,” Theodocion said...

While I agree State Funded Rooms should be limited to those that pose the most harm to the community members, we as a society, MUST send a clear message to the non-violent criminal and thieves, that there is some type of serious punishment, other than go stand in the corner for weekends.

If we can't lock them up, what do we do?
Start cutting off a a fingers or hand?

slapout
5
Points
slapout 12/27/12 - 08:41 am
3
5

I have an idea. a bullet only

I have an idea. a bullet only cost I think like 50 cents a piece now just buy up a bunch of them for the jude and if they are found guilty let him put one right between their eyes and dont even worry about locking them back up it would be alot cheaper

grinder48
1355
Points
grinder48 12/27/12 - 08:54 am
1
0

specta is right BUT ...

Unpublished

There needs to be something in between a life sentence for proprty crimes and some of the light sentences rec'd. "150 years in Douglas County, 2 in Fulton or 10 in Richmond" is ridiculous. Needs to be more uniform, like 10 years regardless of county and serve full sentence. Reasonable sentences and stop parolling people except in extreme circimstances. Parole makes a mockery of the sentence.

XXYY
27
Points
XXYY 12/27/12 - 08:55 am
6
3

Chain Gangs

How about clearing off some land somewhere, putting up some tents and then enclose the field with barbed wire. When you commit a crime, why do you need all the amenties they are receiving in jail? You have manual labor to clean all the ditches, roadways, etc basically for free. Work them sun up to sun down. The prisoners will get their three meals and a cot with a tent over thier heads. You lose TVs, phones, computer time when you are convicted. This might get their attention that this is not the place for me. Right now they are living a life of luxury just sitting in a jail somewhere waiting for time to past.

itsanotherday1
34572
Points
itsanotherday1 12/27/12 - 10:25 am
6
0

@truth

I feel you on the white collar issue, but in the case above the criminal was a habitual offender. I don't know what else you can do with somebody who can't be rehabilitated.

Spectsta: I agree with a lot of what you say about the system being clogged with non- violent offenders. Maybe house arrest with a tracking device, as OC suggested, would be appropriate in a lot of those cases. At least they could work and provide some restitution.

Hey! Now there is an idea! Let them make a choice; x years in the pen, or x years with an ankle bracelet, working and making restitution. Don't work and pay up, you serve out the rest of your time behind bars.

mikesaul
1020
Points
mikesaul 12/27/12 - 10:28 am
4
1

Yes, but those "x years in

Yes, but those "x years in the pen" must be withOUT all the luxuries and comforts of home!

rmwhitley
5081
Points
rmwhitley 12/27/12 - 10:56 am
0
0

The state

Unpublished

is one of the largest and most expensive senior care centers for inmates.

dichotomy
26584
Points
dichotomy 12/27/12 - 10:56 am
8
2

I think people miss the

I think people miss the point. We have the RIGHT to be free from people robbing us and driving prices up for the rest of us by shoplifting. The government does not even have the right to LOOK in my house without a search warrant and punks certainly do not have the right to enter my home and steal from me. When judges and parole boards let them loose they are jeopardizing my rights, my safety, and my property.

If we don't have the room to jail them we should BUILD MORE ROOM. Divert money from welfare, foreign aid, and thousands of wasteful big government programs and build more prisons. The mere idea that we should continue to let repeat offenders out to walk the streets and rob again is ludicrous. You want to let people walk for drug possession, fine. But the first time they steal or rob they should do time. The THIRD time they steal or rob they should do LONG time. Any thief is a potential murderer if you walk in on them or try to protect your property. Nobody should have to suffer having their possessions stolen and it is our RIGHT to punish those who do those kinds of things.

And they wonder why people are buying guns. Our government, our judicial system, and our education system have failed us miserably. They are all taking the side of the criminals instead of discharging their responsibility to protect the law abiding citizens, educate and discipline our children to be productive citizens, and punish those who threaten to harm and steal from the rest of us. Do you EVER hear those who say we should quit locking up these "non-violent" criminals talk about the rights, the fears, and the losses suffered by the ordinary citizens these people prey on? The victims of crime, their loss, their fear, their inconvenience, are totally ignored in the discussion of these poor little misunderstood heathens that are robbing, mugging, and eventually murdering us.

Is there anybody that really believes that these stupid probation "counseling" programs will change the heathens we are setting free to run the streets? And I literally mean "RUN" the streets because they ARE in control of our streets, neighborhoods, parking lots, and schools. None of these programs will stop these thiefs, muggers, and punks. Those programs are merely a speed bump on the highway to their first murder.

Divert the money, build the prisons, and lock up these three time lossers with a life without the possibility of parole sentence after a couple of 5 or 10 year interim sentences for the first two offenses.

Turning thieves, shoplifters, and strong-arm robbers loose to walk the streets is NOT the answer and you know, I know it, and they know it. But because they DO it to us, it is the best reason in the world to kill them on sight if you catch them in the act.

Jane18
12331
Points
Jane18 12/27/12 - 11:09 am
8
0

Last Paragraph of Article

That's right, no one will ever know that feeling or the feeling of being robbed by someone waving a gun around. I do, and I still have not forgotten it. Just because the person is not hurt physically, the emotional(losing sentimental possessions) and the psychological pain never leaves. I do not dwell on it, but, an article and comments like these, brings it all back..................A Habitual criminal needs to be locked up, made to work, made to make some kind of restitution......they need to know what "loss and helplessness" feels like!!

Jane18
12331
Points
Jane18 12/27/12 - 11:12 am
5
2

dichotomy's Comment

Once again, you got it right!!

itsanotherday1
34572
Points
itsanotherday1 12/27/12 - 12:06 pm
7
0

Yep Jane, I would rather

Yep Jane, I would rather someone punch me in the face than steal from me. It is a low life, cowardly act.

Around 1990, someone broke in to our home. We apparently surprised them because they didn't get much before fleeing. We both came home at the same time in separate cars. The back door was unlocked, then I noticed the breeze blowing the curtains at the breakfast table window. When I looked, the screen was out, so I knew something was amiss. We looked around and found some jewelry was missing, as well as some money from a son's dresser. I armed myself and went looking, eventually finding a discarded ski mask in the back yard.

The Sweet Old Boy stole my college class ring, which was very special to me considering how hard I had worked to get out of the hole after dropping out of high school.

I believe it would be worth the assault charge if I could meet that that piece of trash face to face. Yes, 20+ years later I'm still mad as a hornet about it.

Little Lamb
40104
Points
Little Lamb 12/27/12 - 12:48 pm
5
0

Deterrance

From the story:

That some people are thieves or drug addicts who won’t change is true, Theodocion and Lyons agreed, but prison doesn’t change them or deter anyone else, they said.

True, prison won't change them or deter other criminals, but prison will protect society from being victimized time and again by the ones who are placed in prison. That is a societal good, if you ask me.

Dixieman
10350
Points
Dixieman 12/27/12 - 12:52 pm
3
0

Dixieman has 1 billlion points

Lock 'em up. "Non-violent crimes" can be just as devastating, emotionally and financially, as the violent kind.

myfather15
42139
Points
myfather15 12/27/12 - 01:03 pm
4
0

@Opencurtain

Heck no don't cut off their fingers or hand. They would just apply for disability and be approved!! Wouldn't save the honest taxpayers a dime!!

myfather15
42139
Points
myfather15 12/27/12 - 01:06 pm
3
1

Judge should have given him

Judge should have given him 30 years, eligible for parole in 20. No, it wouldn't have been enough but at least it wouldn't have been overturned and he would have spend a long time in prison. With attitudes like specsta, we will NEVER live in a truly peaceful world. One where we are FREE from concern about people like this. When Christ returns, we shall NEVER even have the slightest concern whether we will be harmed, stolen from, molested, etc. Because not a single human being with exist that would do any of these things.

harley_52
19524
Points
harley_52 12/27/12 - 01:07 pm
4
2

We Have Plenty Of Money For Prisons....

....tents and concertina wire aren't all that expensive. Neither is bread, beans, and water.

Potential criminals have no fear of the police, the courts, nor the prison system.

We need to change that.

Willow Bailey
20240
Points
Willow Bailey 12/27/12 - 01:50 pm
6
0

No one likes a thief.

No one likes a thief. But you have to admit it was a stupid sentence that the judge knew would get over turned. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 12/27/12 - 02:39 pm
3
0

I do think it was a bit much

I do think it was a bit much for the crime especially when child molesters get less time than that. I would have been happy to see 20 years all served.

Little Lamb
40104
Points
Little Lamb 12/27/12 - 02:40 pm
3
1

Correct

You are wise, Willow.

Truth Matters
5179
Points
Truth Matters 12/27/12 - 02:59 pm
3
0

Crime...again

Does anyone other than Al Mason and Bill Lockett care that this city is in the process of being "robbed" by the TEE Center "group?"

Can we get a little perspective here?

specsta
5701
Points
specsta 12/27/12 - 03:33 pm
2
4

It's Not Working!

dichotomy wrote: "If we don't have the room to jail them we should BUILD MORE ROOM. Divert money from welfare, foreign aid, and thousands of wasteful big government programs and build more prisons."

Ummm, I think we already tried that...remember that colossal failure called 'The War on Drugs"???

Or maybe two million Americans locked up, more prisoners than any other nation on the planet, isn't enough for folks like you. Let's keep marching down a path that has been proven to be a failure.

itsanotherday1
34572
Points
itsanotherday1 12/27/12 - 04:10 pm
4
1

Folks, Specsta is not all

Folks, Specsta is not all wrong on this IMO. Locking ALL of them up and throwing away the key is not a practical solution, nor do we always want to do that anyway.
Consider the 17 yo who commits a burglary and has say, a vandalism prior. What is better, incarcerate him with hardened criminals and turn him into one, or give a shot at allowing him to prove he can see the error of his ways and become a productive citizen? I think many of us could have seen the inside of YDC for some of the silly crap we did as teens, but just weren't caught. Teenagers make bad decisions, which is why we don't bestow serious life decisions on them that are binding.
Now, when we start talking about older repeat offenders and those who've had an opportunity to wake up, all bets are off.

The long and the short of it for me is this. I would rather try to rehab a low level offender so they can be productive and make restitution than spend $$hundreds of thousands$$ warehousing them in a jail cell. The win-win with that is if they are working, they are also paying taxes.

That also dovetails with my opinion that at some point, some convicts become more of a liability (financially) as they age in prison. If they are over the hill, have a clean record in the pen, let them out. They paid with the best years of their lives and pose no threat anymore. Having the clean prison record would preclude a lot of them, as it is almost required to fight to protect your rep.; but that carrot dangling in front of them would surely make a lot of them be more passive.

Footnote: This is a purely pragmatic opinion; I have no positive emotion whatsoever for a criminal. What we are doing isn't working and just warehousing every criminal, while effective at reducing crime, is a very, very, expensive way to do it.

GaStang22
910
Points
GaStang22 12/27/12 - 05:49 pm
0
1

Its only expensive because of the WAY its done.

Unpublished

And uhhh marching down a path thats a proven failure?? Yeah your bleeding heart system you have been using of going light on crime and rewarding the lazy, immoral breeding factories with lifelong freebees trying to keep them out of poverty and crime ridden lives they choose to wallow in is working just peachy isn't it????

Put your bleeding heart money where your mouth is. If thieves are no biggie put your address out for them all to know where to come with no fear of any real consequence. As long as they pay back your 5k at 5 bux a month right?? Just put the name. Since its no biggie, let them rob you repeatedly so maybe they will leave the rest of us who don't want to live among the lowlifes ALONE!

harley_52
19524
Points
harley_52 12/27/12 - 06:31 pm
3
4

"What we are doing isn't working....

....and just warehousing every criminal, while effective at reducing crime, is a very, very, expensive way to do it."

We have lost sight of the purpose of punishment which is, of course, to PUNISH. It's neither to "rehabilitate," nor to "warehouse." People who commit crimes, and are convicted of such, are supposed to be punished. The punishment is a mechanism by which the criminal pays a price for what he's done and receives a lesson that serves as a disincentive to future crimes for the convicted criminal AND for other potential criminals who witness the punishment.

Thanks to liberals, the whole system has been weakened, twisted, and disoriented. Now, criminals can sue law enforcement officers. Judges think they're on the bench to solve societal injustices. Prisons think they're there to coddle prisoners, rehabilitate them, educate them, and provide them a comfy existence.

Prisoners do not fear police, judges, or prisons. The disincentives have been removed.

We need to fix it.

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