by Alton Pitre- Staff Writer
Punishment was given to 21-year-old, African American Brandon Spencer when he was cursed with 40 years to life in prison last April for the USC shooting that left four people injured. However, that was not justice being served.
Spencer was outside a Halloween party in 2012 on campus when he shot reputed, rival gang member Geno Hall, a former Crenshaw High football standout, and three others. According to statements from L.A. County’s District Attorney’s office, the two had an ongoing feud through social media and Spencer was seeking retaliation from a shooting that left him wounded a year earlier.
“I’m sorry for what happened but I can’t spend the rest of my life in prison,” pleaded a sobbing Spencer to the judge before he sentenced him. “I’m not just some gang banger that they portrayed me as.”
He then broke down in tears and banged his head on the defense table eventually having to be restrained by the Sheriffs moments after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Clarke ordered him a 40-year sentence to be served concurrently. Prosecutors requested that he serve the 40 years consecutively, which would have been a whopping total of 160 years. He is now at least eligible for parole given the “minimum sentence” imposed by Judge Clarke, according to the defense attorney.
You would think that the people thrown away in prison are the ones who are most likely to repeat their violent crimes. This is evidently a case of someone who can be rehabilitated overtime with the appropriate resources and education. Spencer clearly showed that he is sorry and aware of his actions. Past convicts have smirked or even laughed after they are condemned in court. Spencer wept like the baby Jesus. That is not a sign of a man who has no remorse for what he has done.
Race is also an issue that comes into play in the harsh sentencing. In an L.A Times Opinion Letter to the Editor article, a response writer stated that in the same newspaper that first reported Spencer’s trial, was a story of a man named Cody Wygant, who is accused of killing his 16-month-old son because he was crying. He faces more than 10 years if convicted. Another Times article also noted that someone who was charged with two dozen shootings and one death is serving a comparatively light 27-year term. Would Spencer have received a lesser sentence if he were White and not Black?
America’s criminal justice system is well known for handing out its harsh sentences to minorities. When will that ever change? Although there are a few sides that do not question or challenge the facts; Spencer’s possession of a gun at a college party, his intent to shoot a rival gang member and the victims left behind. Taking in account these things, 40 years to life in prison for a young man who made a dumb mistake is not a fair shake. The proper consequence for Spencer is a difficult one to determine, but losing another youth to the system is definitely not the answer.