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People v. Kim: CA 6th on the Symbolic “Impotence” of Over-the-Top Sentences

2011 March 30
by Alex Coolman

The Sixth District Court of Appeal had some interesting remarks on the value, or lack thereof, in imposing five life sentences on a single individual in People v. Kim (H03468), published today. The essential issue in Kim has to do with imposing a sentence greater than allowed by the plea bargain, but the Court of Appeal also turns to the symbolism of imposing sentences that can not possibly be served:

We recognize that such a sentence serves at least in part as an attempt to express the community’s sense of outrage and condemnation toward the defendant’s conduct and, perhaps, his person. But to respond to a justifiable sense of outrage and injury by pronouncing punishments that cannot actually be inflicted might appear to some a potentially counterproductive expression of impotence, like kicking a tree root over which one has tripped.

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