In what has been criticized as a cowardly decision that robbed his victims of the justice of knowing that he was being punished for his crimes, Ariel Castro committed suicide by hanging himself a month after he was found guilty of holding three young women in captivity for over ten years. Yet even Castro’s sentence was not the longest on record.
In California Juan Corona, also known as The Machete Murderer, was found guilty of 25 murders in a spree that stretched across only one year; a judge sentenced him to 25 consecutive life sentences, one for every life Corona was found to have ended. He was denied parole in 2011, and will not be eligible for another hearing until 2016.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest jail term ever meted out to a single individual for multiple criminal counts went to Charles Scott Robinson. Robinson was convicted by an Oklahoma jury of multiple counts related to child rape, and received 5,000 years for each count for a total of 30,000 years. He is eligible for a parole hearing in December 2014, twenty years after his original conviction in 1994.
Oklahoma has a history of handing out long sentences to those convicted of heinous crimes. Darron Bennalford Anderson was sentenced to 2,000 years in prison on various counts, and his sentence was actually extended on appeal in 1996; the earliest possible release date on any of the counts is 3742, though Anderson will be eligible for a parole hearing in November 2013.
An Alabama jury found Dudley Wayne Kyzer guilty of a brutal family murder on Halloween in 1976, and the severity of the crime led to the judge in the case assigning Kyzer two life sentences plus 10,000 years behind bars – making him the record holder before Robinson received his sentence. Alabama requires parole eligibility after a maximum of ten years but to date Kyzer has been denied parole nine times.
However, the true record would have been meted out in Spain. For crimes involved with failure to deliver mail, police recommended that Gabriel Grandos be sentenced to 384,912 years in jail or roughly nine and a half years per undelivered parcel. Ultimately the judge sentenced Gabriel to a mere 14 years behind bars.
Judges may hand down such severe sentences for a variety of reasons. In some instances the severity of the sentence is meant to reflect the severity of the crime and ensure that an individual who is deemed likely to re-offend does not have an opportunity to do so. In other cases, stiff mandatory minimums for crimes may require extended prison sentences. In still other cases, judges may believe that handing down a record or near-record sentence will act as a deterrent for others who might contemplate the same or similar acts. However, for those who would reform the criminal justice system the words of Judge Isaac Parker may ring true: “It’s not the severity of punishment but rather the certainty of punishment that deters crime.”