An Odd Sort of Victory


Last week I helped a client plead guilty to life in prison plus 20 years. He’ll be eligible for parole, if all goes well, in 34 years. Realistically, though, he’ll probably never get out.

The motivation for his plea was, of course, that he might receive a death sentence if he didn’t make a deal. He had confessed to the stabbing murder of his next-door neighbor in the course of burglarizing her house; the facts were such that I didn’t see much of a culpability defense, and a jury in that venue would likely have killed him.

A part of me says that he should have kept on fighting, that there is always a chance of winning, and that twelve years or so in prison followed by a needle in the arm is no worse than life behind bars. Then I think about all of the people on Death Row who wish they had been given the chance to save their own lives. Having taken a non-death sentence, he can decide to end his own life if it ever becomes too burdensome.

Anyway, I didn’t write about this earlier because I didn’t know how I felt about it. I’m still not entirely sure.


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