American Notes: Metaphysics

Texas law sets a minimum jail term for robbery by assault, but no maximum. That legal quirk gave a Dallas jury last week an opportunity to indulge its draconian fantasies. The panel found Joseph Sills guilty of a $73.10 stickup. It was roughly his 20th conviction. Dallas has been roiled by repeated banditry, and the prosecutor touted the deterrent value of long prison terms. So the jury sentenced Sills to 1,000 years.

It was mere hyperbole, of course. The jury evidently wanted to damn Sills, who is 50, to death in jail, but an ordinary sentence of life imprisonment would...

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