Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Man gets life in prison for spitting at officer...but one year for beating wife

From CNN.com

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) -- An Oklahoma man arrested on suspicion of beating his wife faced year in prison and a fine. But when he spit in an arresting officer's face, he got a life sentence instead, officials said Wednesday.

John Carl Marquez, 36, was convicted of "placing bodily fluid upon a government employee," a felony that can carry a life sentence because of the possibility of transmitting a potentially deadly disease.

State Judge April Sellers White sentenced Marquez this week even though Marquez and the officer tested negative for any communicable disease.

Marquez also was convicted of assaulting a police officer, and a jury recommended the maximum sentence because he had previous convictions.

Marquez, arrested several months ago, could have received one year in prison and a $3,000 fine for wife beating, according to the Creek County court clerk's office.
When I first read this article, I was livid. I was ranting and raving at how stupid this country is that spitting on a "government employee" could garner such an extensive sentence, while actually beating his wife would garner up to one year.

But, upon further reading, I've changed my mind a bit. Oh, don't get me wrong -- I'm still livid. And I still think it shows how fucked up this country can be. It's just that the focus is a bit different.

Turns out, the jury convicted this man of the maximum sentence allowed for beating his wife. Yes, that's right, the maximum allowable sentence for domestic violence in Oklahoma is one year (not to be mistaken with assault, which can garner a longer sentence). It didn't even matter that this man had prior convictions for robbery and rape. The jury, disturbed by the short sentence, siezed the opportunity and gave him the maximum allowable sentence for "placing bodily fluid upon a government employee" -- life in prison.

So, hooray for this jury. They're not the idiots I originally thought they were. No, in fact, the idiocy is on the part of the lawmakers in Oklahoma.

Here are my questions for these lawmakers:

  • Why are government employees so much more important than the general pubic (the life sentence is only for spitting on a government employee -- not anyone. If there is danger in spitting on someone, let's face it, a veterinarian will be just as dead as a cop or a civil servant)?

  • Why are the sentences so disproportional? Do they really think that the possibility of transmitting a deadly disease by spitting is significantly worse than the risk of killing someone by abusing them? Keep in mind -- the law regarding bodily fluids is not effected by the health status of either the spitter or the spittee (both before and after the incident).
I applaud the jury in this case -- and I can only hope that this case will make lawmakers wise up and change the sentencing procedures -- and hopefully they won't change them for the worse.

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