BREAKING NEWS: A jury in the United States – land of the brave and home of the free – has been given what effectively amounts to a life sentence in prison for spitting at two police officers.
Larry Pearson, aged 36, was this week sentenced to 70 years in jail for two counts of ‘harassment of a public servant’.
It followed a domestic violence incident in May last year, in which Pearson twice assaulted his girlfriend, before their vehicle was pulled over by police.
Pearson got angry after officers didn’t arrest the woman (her car was unregistered) and spat at them and a third officer at the Lubbock Country Detention Centre.
During closing arguments of the sentencing phase of the trial, prosecutor Jessica Gorman asked the jury to “send a message”, and they certainly did that, delivering a combined sentence of 70 years.
Pearson had prior convictions for family violence and aggravated robbery, meaning that in Texas law, under the law of ‘habitual offenders’, Pearson faced a minimum sentence of 25 years.
Seeking to explain the sentence after trial, Prosecutor Gorman told media, “You’re not going to get 70 years for something like this when you’ve never been in trouble before.”
The treatment of Pearson stands in stark contrast to that of another Texas offender last week. Army Sergeant Daniel Perry, aged 30, was convicted of first degree murder after shooting dead a #BlackLivesMatter protestor in Austin. Perry had repeatedly boasted on social media that he would kill a protestor, before firing on 28-year-old Garret Foster, also a veteran, who approached Perry’s vehicle after Perry drove into the crowd of protestors. Foster was legally carrying an unloaded assault-style rifle.
Immediately after his conviction, far-right Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked the Board of Pardons and Paroles to expedite a pardon for Perry (he hasn’t even been sentenced yet), which Abbott said he would sign.
The town of Lubbock is situated deep in the heart of rural Texas, about 500 kilometres west of Dallas, and 100 kilometres from the New Mexico border. The town is named in honour of Thomas Lubbock, a Confederate colonel who fought for the preservation of slavery in the United States.
It’s a deeply conservative community – of the 20 most populous counties in Texas, Lubbock returned the second widest winning margin for former US president Donald Trump in 2020.
By US standards, Lubbock is not a big city – it has the 85th largest population in the United States. Even so, it’s managed to rank 15th on the nation’s execution list, having sent 13 Lubbock residents to their deaths since 1976.
More than three quarters of Lubbock residents are white, yet Black and Hispanic people made up more than half of those executed. Those disparities are also reflected in the broader prison population across Texas: African Americans make up just over 11 per cent of the Texas population, but a little over one-third of prison inmates.
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