Category Archives: Harsh Sentences

Bullying Ends In Tragedy And Sends Seventeen Year Old Boy To Prison For Life

Louis Singleton

If you talked to some folks in Mobile, Alabama, back in 90’s, they may have told you that Louis Singleton was one of the best athletes to come through their town.  Louis had a bright future in front of him, and lots of promise.  He was born in 1976, the son of a brick mason and a high school teacher.  His parents were separated, but Louis, the youngest of two children, grew up in a middle class, stable home.   He had average grades in school, held a summer job, and participated in varsity football and basketball programs.

Louis was heavy into sports from the beginning.  He wasn’t an angel, but he wasn’t trouble either.  He was typical.  He got a speeding ticket once because he was running late to summer school.  He also got in trouble for disorderly conduct when he was sixteen, due to a fight.  But, for the most part, things were looking very good for him midway into his junior year of high school.  His eye was on being the starting quarterback for his high school football team the following year.   Yes, Louis had dreams – big ones.

He never made it to that quarterback position though.  The years of dreaming came to an end the night before his eighteenth birthday.   It didn’t start that night though – the trouble started almost a year before then.  Louis had no idea it was going to end up changing his life in an instant.  He never saw it coming.

The train started going off the track for Louis in the spring of 1993.  There was a girl.  She was known as Meme.   Meme had just broken up with her boyfriend, Kendrick Martin.  Derrick Conner, Louis’ close friend, began dating Meme.  Kendrick Martin didn’t like that.   Louis was involved by association.

The first time things turned physical was during an altercation at a gas station.  Louis and Derrick were there, and Louis went inside to pay for gas and pick up a couple snacks, leaving Derrick outside.   When he came back out, Derrick and Kendrick were going at it.  It was over Meme, and Louis remembers telling Kendrick, “Man, you tripping about one female, when it’s plenty of fishes in the sea.”  Kendrick didn’t take that well.

It wasn’t long before all their paths crossed again.  Derrick Conner and Louis were leaving a local convenience store when Kendrick Martin was pulling into the parking lot.  According to Louis, Kendrick got out of his car and began shooting at Derrick and Louis with a gun as the boys were pulling away.

Louis Singleton was shot at more than once by Kendrick Martin.  Nelson Tucker, the state’s own witness, testified that he was with Kendrick Martin and had shot at Louis Singleton with a gun that he obtained from Kendrick Martin.  Tucker also stated that he was present on two separate occasions when a pistol was fired at Louis.

By Louis’ account of that time, Kendrick Martin pointed a gun in his direction and shot at him on three different occasions, two of these incidents being confirmed by the prosecution’s own witness.   He also reported an incident where Kendrick Martin pulled a gun from a book bag and pointed it at his head.  There was another day in a fast food parking lot, when Louis was in a vehicle, and Kendrick was striking the car windows with a crow bar.

There is nothing that can be said about the tragic events that took place on January 11, 1994, that will excuse what happened that day.  A life was taken, and another altered forever in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant in Mobile, Alabama.  Reading the transcripts, I take away that there was confusion in that parking lot.  There were a lot of people gathered after a high school game, and Louis perceived he was in danger after seeing Kendrick and his friends and hearing some things that were said.  No one can know exactly what was going on in anyone’s minds, and different witnesses said different things, but I think  it is fair to say that if there had not been months of bullying leading up to that day, it simply never would have happened.   Louis, the seventeen year old boy with so much promise, had a gun.  He felt threatened that night, as he had on many occasions over the previous months, and shot at Kendrick, Tucker and another man they were with, Johnathan Martin.   A pattern had been set leading up to that day, leaving Louis feeling the need to defend himself around Kendrick and his friends.  So when words were said and movements were made, he felt cornered and threatened, whether he was or not.  In his mind – he was.

Kendrick Jermaine Martin died from a gunshot wound to the neck. Johnathan Allen Martin was shot once in the neck area and was paralyzed from the waist down as a result.  Nelson L. Tucker was shot three times and was hospitalized for four days and released.

It’s twenty three years later.  The court transcripts described Louis as a boy who, ‘enjoyed a favorable reputation within his community’.  He was evaluated before his trial by the Strickland Youth Center, and they determined that he ‘did not appear to be a behavioral problem’.

Louis Singleton spent his eighteenth birthday in a Mobile Detention Center and has been incarcerated ever since.  In the twenty three years since then, he has obtained his GED, studied brick masonry, anger management and self awareness.  He has also worked with nurses in the prison healthcare system.   And he’s been incarcerated for well over half of his life.   Louis was sentenced to two life sentences and twenty years, to be served consecutively.

Louis didn’t want things to end this way.  Louis Singleton sought help long before that night, from parents, the police, and the school principal.  A seventeen year old boy sought help from the people who were responsible for protecting him.  He did the things he was supposed to do, but those in a position to protect him did not do what they were supposed to.

Louis’ Mom

What stands out from my conversations with Louis is what happened after he drove home that night.  This is what he told me, “My mind was racing with thoughts that I couldn’t even grasp mentally.  I just went home and sat in the house with all the lights out, scared to move, don’t know what to do nor to say.  My mom was gone to a choir convention in Mississippi during the time of the incident.  While I sat in our house quietly and somberly in the front room, my mother pulled up with no clue of what just happened.   When she came in the door, turned to lock the door, I was sitting there in the dark room.  I scared her out of her wits.  As a mother who knew her child, she instantly asked me, ‘Boy, what’s wrong with you sitting in here with all the lights out?’  I was so discombobulated I honestly couldn’t speak, it seemed like somebody had my soul…”

Louis’ mother never had a chance to have her son home again, and has since passed.  They were close, and Louis Singleton will live with the memory of sitting in that dark room and having to tell his mom what happened etched in his memory forever.  He has spent twenty three years in an Alabama prison reliving that day and the months that led up to it, hoping to wake up every morning and have it all be a dream.  He will spend the rest of his life knowing the impact he has had on people, their families and his own.  Nothing will bring back the man who died that night or heal the man who was paralyzed, but the burden of what took place that night should not have been placed solely on the shoulders of a seventeen year old kid who had never been in any trouble.   A seventeen year old kid went into prison after shooting at the man who terrorized him for nearly a year, sentenced to spend every breath for the rest of his life in an Alabama prison, until the day he dies, never knowing what it means to live free again.  How is that tragedy going to make what happened on that night in 1994 any less tragic?

A Mother’s ‘Life’ Sentence

There is a mom in Florida going to visit her son this week.  His name is Bubba, and he lives in a Florida prison.  He’s spent the last twenty years behind bars.  Bubba had a drug habit as a young man, and he resorted to robbery to get his next fix.  He had a gun, but he never pulled it on anybody.  He was given a life sentence for his crimes.

Life.

I don’t know Bubba’s history.  I have no idea how he found himself with an addiction so powerful, he needed to steal to feed it.  I DO know that so many of us or someone we know is, or has been, just a few circumstances away from that same place.  Let’s face it – most of us have come closer than we would like to admit to some form of trouble, and we just didn’t get caught.   People make mistakes.  People have weak moments and clouded judgment.  Sometimes jail can actually be a place where a person can temporarily be protected from making more bad choices.  But ‘life’?  Really?

Don’t we owe it to each other to show a little more compassion than simply throwing people away?  Life – you stay behind bars until you die.  That’s what it is.  That’s what we have become comfortable with, what we accept.  I don’t want to be a party to this.  Silence is not an option.

These are the words of a mother who’s boy went into prison in his early twenties, has been there for twenty years, and is sentenced to die there.

Talked to Bub late yesterday.  It is amazing how positive he is, living with his life sentence.  He is such an inspiration!  I learn from him all of the time.  He told me about the A.M. worship service – OVER 200 inmates!  He said the music was great, and the sermon was ‘brimstone and fire’.  Bubba likes that kind of preaching, no whitewashing.

I asked him about the food, and he was so happy to have DECENT food!  ‘Mom,’ he said, ‘the biscuits are bigger than your fist.  I had more butter and jelly on my plate than I have had in the ENTIRE last 5 years, SEASONED potatoes and grits that were actually cooked the way they should be cooked.’  He also had eggs AND a banana.  He traded his eggs for a second banana.

This may seem like small stuff, but believe me, it isn’t.  He has gone months without fresh fruit, and had years of eating only for survival, not because the food had any quality, taste, or nutritional value.

We talked again – about him getting transferred to the Faith based program.  I told him about all of the prayers and positive words from everyone.  He said, ‘Mom, it really is a miracle.  You’re not supposed to be considered until you have been DR (disciplinary report) free for a year. I had four months to go.’

Bubba has already witnessed major changes (for the better) in the short time he has been here, not only from the inmates’ respect for one another and each other’s property, but from guards as well.  He was also excited about the walking track.  He said if he walked it three times, he could walk a mile.  That’s major!  He had already walked it once with an elderly inmate, about seventy, who has dementia.  Bub said, ‘Mom, he can remember some things from fifty years ago and then not remember where his cell is.’  I know Bubba’s heart went out to him, and I know Bub will do what he can for him.  That’s just the way he is – always was…

He was also telling me this place has football, basketball, and softball (most places don’t allow any group sports).  He was super excited about that, especially for the softball.  I reminded him that his dad was very good at baseball and was expected to get a baseball scholarship.  Bubba only knew Gordon as his dad, and he cherishes that, but I know in my heart – or at least I feel – that had Bubba not lost his father, he would not have suffered the traumatic things he did as a child.  Billy would have been there to help me protect him, before Gordon came into our lives…

We talked about his current roommate, someone like Bubba who has a heart for God, and we laughed about one of his most recent roommates, someone who had been convicted of cannibalism…  Bubba rode that one out pretty good.  When we talked about that character, he would laugh and say, ‘Yeah, I sleep with one eye open’.  That same inmate was bragging on all of his ‘accomplishments’ when bubba first came into contact with him in their shared cell, showing Bubba newspaper articles about his crimes, etc.  I’ll never forget what Bub said when I asked him how he handled that.  ‘Mom, I just told him MY GOD watches over me.  You have your articles, I’ve got MY BIBLE.’

Bubba has been through more than anyone should ever have to endure for the crimes he committed.  He has paid his debt to society.  Anyone who knows and loves him can agree to that, and I believe with all my heart that my son will one day come home.    But for now, we at least have ‘biscuits bigger than your fist, more jelly and butter than I’ve had in five years and fresh fruit’, fellow inmates who want to do their time serving God and not Satan, a great ministry throughout the entire prison and not just during service, a track to walk, softball teams, and clothing – yes, clothing.  There have actually been times when clothing has not been provided.  And, most of all, a new sense of Hope that comes from the Faith that keeps your spirit alive, trusting God’s grace and mercy to answer prayers.

And, how I hope those prayers are answered.  For Bubba.  For his mom.  For a country that needs a better sense of what’s important.  Throwing people away ISN’T okay.

This mom told me one more thing.  She told me about the ‘sick’ feeling she gets after a visit with her son, when she walks out the prison doors and leaves him behind.   She said that feeling sticks with her, “It never fully goes away…  When you eat, when you sleep, when you’re with someone, when you’re alone.  It’s always there, in the back of your mind, in your heart, in every breath you take.”

Write and Help Give Rayvell His Life Back

The ugly truth is – Rayvell Finch was in possession of some stolen property once.  It was worth over $500.   About a year later – he was charged with possession with intent to distribute 24 rocks of crack cocaine.

Those were his wrongs.  A parent with a troubled child might be familiar with something like that.    For whatever reason – people get sidetracked when they are young, one wrong choice leads to a few more.   They make immature, irresponsible choices that we hope and pray they grow out of.  With so many of our kids  – it might evolve into addiction.  The grip of a drug on your kid so powerful, you can’t beat it the hell back, no matter how hard you try.

That is what happened to Rayvell.  He became an addict.  One day, a few years after the above crimes – he was sitting on a stoop.  He was visiting an aunt, and was sitting with a friend outside.   The police say there was a ‘No Trespassing’ sign, but none of my research ever showed that evidence was presented.

It doesn’t matter – he was arrested for sitting on that stoop and looking like someone the police thought might be up to something.  He had his fix in his sock.  That was his third strike.  That’s it.  That is what he got life in prison without the possibility of parole for.

It’s two decades later.  Yes – two decades.  He’s still in that prison.  But there is a glimmer of hope.  Just a glimmer, but it’s there.

On March 16, 2017, Rayvell is going before a parole board.  Feeling sympathy, sharing stories, crying over the injustice and the death behind bars – we do that.  A lot.   This is one of those times something can be done.  Please join me in writing on behalf of Rayvell.   This is his story if you need to read more.

It’s so easy and it could mean all the difference in the world.  If you need an outline, copy and paste what I have below and add some of your own sentiments.  The below words are meant to give you a place to start.  It’s just a shell to help you compose your own letter, but the information regarding Rayvell’s accomplishments are all accurate.

The address is included in the sample.

State of Louisiana Board of Pardons
Committee of Parole Department of Public Safety and Corrections
P.O. Box 94304
Capital Station
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9304

Re:  Rayvell Finch, 00336346

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing this letter in support of, Rayvell Finch, who is appearing before the parole board on March 16, 2017.  I am writing to request that you send Mr. Finch home to reunite with his family.

Rayvell Finch never committed a violent crime and the third strike he received that resulted in a life sentence was the result of an addiction that he has long since conquered.

While facing life in prison, he chose to better himself.  Where others may have given up, he pushed forward.  He has taken courses in anger management, substance abuse and religious studies.   He also has experience in carpentry, horticulture and in the culinary arts.   He has taken up hobbies while he has been incarcerated, including making jewelry, leather work and woodwork.

He has been incarcerated for two decades and I implore you to release Rayvell at this parole hearing and allow him to spend the rest of his days with his family and loved ones.

Sincerely,

 

If You Believe in Second Chances, Click Below…

Travion Blount was fifteen years old when he got in trouble.  Described as a ‘shy but happy boy’ by his mother, in middle school he started skipping class and hanging out with the wrong crowd.   At the age of fifteen he went to a party with two older boys, and the three of them robbed the other people there at gunpoint, collecting drugs, cell phones and money.

The two older boys received ten and thirteen year sentences.  Travion, the youngest and the only one not to plead guilty, was sentenced to six life sentences, plus 118 years.   That sentence was later reduced to forty years.  With a forty year sentence, Travion will be fifty-five years old when he gets out, for a crime he committed at the age of fifteen years old.

Due to the length of his sentence, Travion has been kept in high security facilities.  He has continued to take classes and tells me he just ‘tries to stay out of people’s way’.  In the year we have communicated, he has never been anything but respectful.  He asks how my family is in every correspondence.   He asks how I am.

He deserves a second chance.  If you would like to read more about him, there are three articles about him right here on my blog.  But  – it is also easy to find out about him through a simple internet search.  The punishment he received was harsh.  I believe it was too harsh.  If you believe that also, please click here, and write an email to the Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe.

Your message doesn’t have to be lengthy, it may take only three minutes of your time, but if you feel Travion deserves a second chance, please take those three minutes.  I wrote one that was a little more personalized, but if you need help getting started, feel free to copy and paste the words I have below.   Simply put Travion Blount’s name in the subject line, and start something like this:

Please consider a pardon for Travion Blount.  In 2006, at the age of fifteen, he committed a crime for which he has been in prison for ten years.   He is a young man now.  While incarcerated, he has taken classes to prepare for his future and he has a family that supports and loves him at home.  I respectfully request that you consider a pardon for Travion Blount.

That’s it.  Please take a moment to contact Governor Terry McAuliffe if you feel Travion Blount deserves a second chance.  You can write your own words, or copy mine.  You can copy mine and add some of your own.   But, please, if you believe in second chances speak up for Travion.

State Funded Suffering

Oscar Giles was born in 1949. That would make him almost seventy years old today. I look at his photo, and I see such sadness. There is loneliness in those eyes too. What I don’t see is menace. Just weary defeat.

There are some things that are no brainers. We come across things in life that don’t require any intelligent thought or deciphering to figure out. This is one of those things.

Oscar was incarcerated in February of 1979 in the state of Florida. He had broken into a liquor store at 3:30 a.m. There was no one inside, and he was caught shortly after the incident. There was a gun found in the vicinity that the authorities attributed to Oscar. I am not sure if he ever said it was his or not. No one was harmed or present at the time of the crime.

Oscar was charged with a few things. Among the charges was Armed Burglary. For that offense, he received life in prison.  A punishment of that magnitude is lost on so many. People don’t often think about it longer than the time it takes them to read the news article about someone receiving it. Unless you are seventy years old at the time of your arrest, life in prison may be considered worse than death by some.   There’s no coming back from that. There’s no redeeming yourself. There is no chance of forgiveness. That’s it. No longer will you ever receive love and physical affection of family and friends. There is no picking up the phone when you want. Not even mailing a letter if someone doesn’t pay for your stamp.

In 1979, I was eleven years old. Oscar has been incarcerated since I was eleven. I’ve had four children and a granddaughter in that time. When this man committed his crime, he didn’t have the advantages some of us have. He had a tenth grade education. He worked as a laborer. He wasn’t in that liquor store to hurt anybody. He made a reckless choice in a hard life. Not a hurtful choice. It was a nonviolent crime.

One article I read indicated that Oscar has had one visit since he’s been in. In the state of Florida, you can’t send him an email. I can’t tell him he has not been forgotten. I will slip a note into the mailbox tomorrow and hope it reaches him by Christmas. I don’t know this man. But one look at him tells me he doesn’t need to be in there anymore. That’s all it takes is one look. It’s a no brainer. When are we going to quit destroying people’s souls and calling it justice. This isn’t justice.

I found Oscar Giles on JPay. His DC Number is 067434. From what I have been able to locate, he can be written to at:

Giles, Oscar DC# 067434
Tomoka Correctional Institution
3950 Tiger Bay Road
Daytona Beach, FL 32124
REFERENCES:

“Harsh Justice in America.” Harsh Justice in America. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.

“Oscar Giles: 37 Years (and Counting) for Non-violent Offenses – Updated.” Wobbly Warrior’s Blog. N.p., 04 Nov. 2016. Web. 18 Dec. 2016.

Nonviolent Addict Sentenced To Life Without Parole

Drug addiction isn’t pretty. It’s easier for people to deny its existence than to try and wrap their heads around it. I’ve given it a little thought today.   I tried to imagine the struggle. I think it may feel something like being in dark hole with no walls in sight to climb your way out. What makes seemingly young, healthy people keep falling deeper into the hole? Is it a cycle of self-loathing? Unhappiness with one’s own life has someone looking to something for happiness, but once the chemicals take hold, do they hate themselves a little more each time they succumb, because they are faced with their own weakness? Over and over, digging deeper and deeper, and the deeper they go, the further they find themselves from their ability to find happiness within themselves?

I don’t think I’ll figure it out. I’m grateful I’ve never fought the battle. I’ve seen loved ones go through it though. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone fully conquer it. My father was an alcoholic, and he never conquered his addiction. I’ve loved and known others, with their various poisons. I’ve seen what they do in their darkness.   They’ve stolen from loved ones in moments of weakness, only to realize it when clarity returns. The result only makes them feel further isolated and alone, having betrayed the ones they love.

Addiction is pain, plain and simple. In its simplest explanation, that’s what it is. I read about Rayvell Finch today. He was an addict, the same as those I have known and loved. He hadn’t been in trouble for a while. Just a victim of his own disease. Hurting himself, but not violent with anybody else. He was with a friend one day in Louisiana, while visiting his aunt and grandmother. The two were sitting on the steps of an abandoned house right next door.

There was a police officer and DEA agent patrolling the area to target violent crime that day. They saw Rayvell and his friend, and arrested him for trespassing. Rayvell was a heroin addict. The officers found eight aluminum foil packets in his sock. They tested positive for the drug.

At the age of 23, Rayvell Finch had no record of any violence. A few years earlier he had been convicted of possession of stolen property worth over $500, followed a year later by being charged with possession with intent to distribute 24 rocks of crack cocaine. This was Rayvell’s third strike.

That was in 1997, nearly twenty years ago. Rayvell was sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. In other words, the door was shut, the key thrown away, and no one ever has to see him again. No possibility of parole. That’s one way to deal with addiction.

Are we so shallow that we have become a society that locks away the weak and damaged till they die, so we don’t have to see them? Rayvell paid for his previous crimes. Because he was an addict, and had his drugs in his sock that day, Rayvell was sentenced to spend the rest of his days on earth in prison, without love or family around him, until he dies alone. I don’t know the law, and I don’t know the words they used to justify it, but that is the reality of the outcome.

RESOURCES:

Wishon, Jennifer. “Nation of Criminals: Three Strikes on the Way Out.” N.p., n.d. Web.                          

What Tax Dollars Are Funding

Robert Booker will spend every day until August, 2027, locked up and surrounded by the sadness that is prison. That is a lot of days to look forward to – quite a bit more than 4,000.   I don’t think I would have the strength to do it. Robert has been doing it for over two decades.

Robert messed up. I have messed up quite a few times in my life. Just never on such a grand scale, but I have messed up all the same. We are near the same age, so I know what things were like in the ‘80’s. I haven’t spoken to Robert personally, but from what I have read, he had a stable life, and could hold down a job.  He was a lifeguard.  I could hold a job down then too, but that didn’t stop me from running in some pretty shady circles. I think Robert saw a way to make some easier money. He was working hard at an honest living, but saw things were much easier and lucrative for some other people. One thing led to another, and he made some really bad choices.

Robert Booker was arrested and eventually sentenced to life without the possibility for parole for a nonviolent crime. He was basically a drug dealer, and from what I have read, the actual crimes were possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine, and operating a “crack distribution house.” He was busted. The good times were over. Robert Booker took a shortcut in life. He wasn’t a choir boy. He probably didn’t put much thought into it and got into the business of cashing in on people’s addictions. He wasn’t the first to do it, and he won’t be the last. I’ve had friends who did it, and probably a lot of people growing up in that time had friends who did it. They weren’t evil or violent. They were young and stupid.   It wasn’t about malice.

So, Robert Booker could have been a friend of mine. A good soul, with a reckless nature who didn’t really think about the consequences or repercussions of the business he was in – either on his customers or himself. I don’t think any of us are truly fully done developing good sense until we are near thirty years old. Some of us take even longer. A side of me thinks I am not fully developed myself, or I wouldn’t be seeking out all this sadness, because it is putting a heavy weight on my soul.

I have read all the legal back and forth on this one, and it is too much for me to wrap my brain around without a law degree. When it was all said and done, Robert was given a life sentence without the possibility for parole. That was over twenty years ago. By my calculations, this man began his time behind bars in his twenties and is nearly fifty years old right now. Isn’t that enough? For the love of God, isn’t that enough?  In that time I have had four kids and a grandbaby.

I am Robert’s age. There is a lot of common sense that comes by age fifty. He has the common sense thing down, I am sure. He’s good now. Open the doors. There is not one ounce of sense to be made of this. Not one ounce. There is not one politician or judge or prosecutor that can stand in front of me and make ‘this’ make sense. What is being done to Robert Booker is cruel and unusual punishment. Depriving him of the company and touch and words of his friends and loved ones from this moment forward is inexcusable.

And, it doesn’t end there. Taxpayers who don’t even know his name are paying for this disgrace. They don’t even know that their hard earned money is funding the caging of this grown man. For no purpose.   It has become a game. How many years can we tack onto this person or that? How much hard time can we give them? Can we see them die behind bars – won’t that be good for our resume?

No, it doesn’t end there. What of Robert’s kids? His grandkids? The people he can’t touch with his experiences and his hard earned knowledge of what not to do? Robert Booker may not know it yet, but he inspires me. This has got to change because it is not humane. It should be against the law to cage this man for one more minute.

Although all of my research indicated that Robert was sentenced to life without the possibility for parole, my search of his name indicates that he currently has a release date of August, 2027. If that is the case, that isn’t good enough. It may be an improvement over life without parole, but there is not one more day behind bars that is going to ‘rehabilitate’ him anymore. Every second from this day forward is a sin. To keep someone in a miserable, cold cage because people need to continue to argue over the letter of the law to prove some point while wearing their freshly pressed suits is the definition of despicable.

Sentenced to Life at Fifteen

I first read about Travion Blount in a three by five inch article, including title, on page five of the Metro section of my local paper.   It was the smallest article on the page, as if it were a filler. I’m surprised I even read it. Once I did, I wanted to know more.

This is what I pieced together after I searched his name on the internet. Travion was born and raised in Virginia. His mom is Angela Blount and his father is Patrick Mills. His mom described him as ‘happy but shy,’ and from what I read, he was pretty typical up until middle school. That seems to be about the time his wheels got a little off track.

Skipping school was a problem, and Travion couldn’t seem to get past the sixth grade. He also became friendly with some slightly older boys that probably weren’t the best of influences. I would imagine Tavion looked up to them, and I am not going to try and paint him as an angel.   He wasn’t.  If he had lived next door to me, I would have probably viewed him as trouble.

From piecing together all the news accounts, in September, 2006, Travion and his friends, Morris Downing and David Nichols, went to a party and robbed the partygoers at gunpoint. They collected drugs, cell phones and money. Travion did not physically hurt anyone during the robbery.

It is clear these boys did something terribly wrong. I can’t imagine the fear they caused in the people at the party on that night. A few probably thought they were going to die. What the three boys did is inexcusable.

The two older boys pled guilty, one receiving a ten year sentence and the other receiving a thirteen year sentence. Travion, at the age of 15, decided to plead innocent and fight the charges, against legal advice. That is the first part of this that has me wondering about fairness.   What 15-year-old should be given the responsibility of deciding what his best defense would be? I have a fifteen year old, and, as smart as she is, I don’t think she should be allowed to decide how she should plead in a criminal case.

After a three day trial, and being found guilty on 49 counts, Travion was sentenced to 118 years and six life sentences.   Being a mom, and knowing just how ‘not’ grown up a boy is at the age of 17 – his age at trial – there is one thing that I read that really sums up just how young Travion was. I read that he turned to his mom and said, “What happened Mom?”

In my opinion, that sentence is criminal. In my opinion that sentence is cruel and unusual punishment. There are no words to adequately describe what I think of that sentence.

At a later date, Governor Bob McDonnell reduced Travion’s sentence to forty years. That might sound like a good thing, but in the twists and turns of our illogical legal system, it actually makes it a little more difficult for the sentence to be further reduced, as Blount had a chance to appeal the sentence as unconstitutional when it was a life sentence – he can no longer do that now that the sentence is forty years.

So what is forty years? That is 14,600 days waking up knowing that you will see the same exact things you saw the day before. To a fifteen year old, that could mean never being half of a serious relationship. That is never graduating high school.  You will probably never have the work experience in place to find successful employment, even if you were healthy at the age of 55, when you got out. You possibly may not be able to spend another day in the company of your parents.   A good deal of your relatives will not be here anymore when you get out, even if you did remember who they were. Did he ever slow dance, I wonder. Did he ever leave the state of Virginia? Forty years to a fifteen year old, is his entire life. His entire life.

Shouldn’t doing that to Travion Blount be against the law? Travion Blount made a stupid, irresponsible, shameful decision when he was fifteen years old, although he did not physically harm anyone. And for that, he will pay with forty years of his life. And, we are paying the price of that, both with our pockets and our souls.