A guy in Texas stole a calculator from Walmart, and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was supposed to get just 2 years max. But they incorrectly applied a habitual offender law, and nobody caught the mistake. So, 14 years for stealing a calculator. Which helps explain why the US has the world’s highest incarceration rate.
Anyway, the error was eventually recognized, and steps were taken to fix it. But the Texas solicitor general fought it all the way to the Supreme Court, insisting that the 14-year sentence remain in place. He argued that if this guy was released, it might affect the sentences of other inmates. In other words, he was a sacrificial lamb. It’s nice to be needed.
I love the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy to the solicitor general: “Is there some rule that you can’t confess error in your state?”
The matter was referred to a lower court, and eventually, the guy was released after six years–three times the maximum sentence for his heinous crime of stealing a calculator, but eight years less than his original sentence. I guess he should feel forever grateful to the State of Texas.
By the way the solicitor general who argued the case was Ted Cruz. A man of principle and compassion, obviously.Leave a comment