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Judge Watch: 2460 Year Prison Sentence Upheld by Texas Appeals Court, More Great Publicity for Texas Criminal Justice System

Once again, Texas courts are making international headlines and not in a good way. 

This week, the Texas Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit over in Fort Worth issued its decision in the case of James Kevin Pope.  Seems Mr. Pope was tried and convicted of sexual assault of a child — an unfortunate crime, to be sure, but not one that rare or unheard of in our state, or in our country.  Heck, Roman Polanski is fighting extradiction on a similar charge right now…. 

It is a particularly disturbing fact pattern, of course:  Pope was convicted of having group sex with his three daughters.   Reaction to these circumstances surely played its part here — but this situation is far from the only heinous fact pattern with which experienced criminal defense attorneys (and criminal court judges) have had to deal.  

Nope, it’s not the crime that is making the headlines — it’s the punishment

What makes James Kevin Pope so newsworthy in places like Sidney, Australia, is the punishment he received — and which the reviewing court approved.  Defendant Pope was sentenced to FORTY life sentences and three 20 year sentences (one for each of 3 counts of sexual performance with a child).  And, the Judge of the 415th District Court over in Fort Worth okayed him serving these sentences consecutively, not concurrently. 

Which means, adding the time periods up as they stack against each other, back to back, you’ve got over 2400 years. 

Using the prosecution’s estimate of 60 years per life sentence, this totals to 2400 years before you add the three 20-year sentences, for a total of 2460 years incarceration as punishment for the crime. 

Of course, everyone knew that the jury voted for this punishment and that trial court judge had the authority to issue his ruling. Everyone also understood that the ruling would go up on appeal.  The trial judge had made a statement with his decision and the appellate court would review things, change the math.

Surprise, surprise.  The Fort Worth Court of Appeals Doesn’t Change a Thing

In a per curiam opinion (Justices Dauphinot, Gardner, and Livingston)(read the opinion here), the Fort Worth Court of Appeals didn’t change a thing.  They determined that there was factually sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s judgment, even if there wasn’t a jury instruction telling the jury which of the alleged criminal acts were the ones that formed the prosecution’s request for a conviction.  Nope  The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals thought this error to be harmless, and let that Ready-For-David-Letterman’s-Monologue prison sentence stand. 

Just another great bit of media coverage for the criminal justice system of the State of Texas.  We should all be so proud.


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