Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • The sun is shining down on Redondo Beach in  California on a blisteringly hot day at the end of  

  • July. On the pier, not far from a packed ice cream  shop, four kids are enjoying a recent acquisition:  

  • a large pepperoni pizza. Unbeknownst to them, they  are being watched by two men. One of those men is  

  • an imposing figure, standing at six foot four  inches tall, and of a muscular build from all  

  • the hard graft he's put in at the warehouse where  he works in Compton. The two men, slightly buzzed  

  • after drinking, decide to play a game of truth or  dare. The game will end with the men stealing a  

  • slice of pizza from those kids. Gorging themselves  and laughing at the same time, the men walk away.

  • For this crime, one of the men received a life  sentence with a minimum of 20 years to be served,  

  • a draconian punishment if ever there was oneFor this he became known as thepatron saint of  

  • unfair sentencingand his story had people  scratching their heads from Dublin to New Delhi.  

  • What on Earth is going on in the USA, people  wondered while reading the newspaper, some of  

  • them double-checking that it wasn't April Fool's  Day or they weren't mistakenly reading satire

  • Indeed, what was going on in the USA? We'll get around to the man's fate later,  

  • but first, we need to go back  to the scene of the crime

  • It was committed on July 30, 1994. The kids who  were robbed were aged seven to fourteen years old.  

  • They'd just been to a place called Adam's Pizzaand just after they'd started chowing down on  

  • that mouth-watering pie the two men approached. At  first, they demanded a piece of the pizza, but the  

  • kids refused to hand any over. They didn't really  have much choice, given the size of the men

  • Not long after, the two guys were arrested at  Craig's ice-cream shop on the pier. One of them  

  • was never convicted of a crime, while the other  got 25 years to life with 20 of those years to  

  • be served without the possibility of paroleHe was 27-year old, Jerry Dewayne Williams

  • Ok, so some of you might now be thinking, wellyou shouldn't steal from kids, but 25 years to  

  • life seems just a tad harsh. Maybe a good telling  off would be a more suitable punishment for the  

  • crime. But you first need to know why such a long  sentence was handed down to this man. He didn't  

  • hurt the kids, by the way, there was no assault or  anything like, it happened just as we've said. The  

  • guys were messing around and did something stupidand it has to be said a little bit pathetic.  

  • Who takes pizza out of the hands of children? Still, it was hardly the crime of the century,  

  • so why the outrageous prison sentence? First, you need to know that Mr. Williams  

  • had committed four other crimes before the pizza  heist. His priors were attempted robbery, robbery,  

  • a small drug possession, and unauthorized use  of a vehicle. That still didn't put him anywhere  

  • near the highest-ranking menaces to society in the  U.S. The sentence he received was befitting of a  

  • killer, a violent house invader, or a person that  leaves serious trauma in his wake after savagely  

  • attacking vulnerable people. Now you need to know about  

  • something called the three-strikes law. We probably don't need to say this, but we will  

  • just in case you don't know anything about the  sport of baseball. We can forgive you for that,  

  • seeing as 95 percent of the world would  rather watch paint dry than watch a game.  

  • In that sport, you get three chances to  hit the ball. If you miss, it's called  

  • a strike. If you get three strikes, you're out. In terms of the law, it means that offenders who  

  • keep offending are given severe sentences. The law  was passed in 1993 and was first implemented in  

  • 1994. You might be wondering, well, don't judges  always look at previous convictions when handing  

  • down a sentence, and you'd be right to think  that. The main difference is the three-strikes  

  • law means judges don't have discretion. The law  ensures repeat offenders get a long sentence,  

  • which is usually a life sentence or at least 25  years. Sometimes it's life without the possibility  

  • of parole. That's something we'll get into soon. How it's applied differs from state to state.  

  • What happened to Williams would almost certainly  not have happened in some other states.  

  • It's complicated, and we don't want to spend  an entire show going through each state

  • Nonetheless, you should know that California used  to be very strict in its implementation of this  

  • law, so Williams isn't the only person from that  state that stood in court and almost passed out  

  • when the judge told him where he'd be  spending possibly the rest of his life.  

  • In the states of Georgia, South Carolina, and  Tennessee, they have a two strikes law, but the  

  • crimes committed have to be the most serious of  crimes, such as murder, or other violent offenses

  • As we said, it's complicated, because in  South Carolina you can also get three strikes  

  • for lesser crimes, such as drug offensesforgery, or burglary. If that's the case,  

  • just as with two serious strikesyou don't just get a life sentence,  

  • but life without the possibility of parole. Before we come back to Mr. Williams, let's have  

  • a look at some very controversial applications  of this law, a law, as you'll soon find out,  

  • many people think doesn't even work. The state in question is Texas,  

  • which has more people behind bars than any  other state in the U.S. It's only in sixth  

  • place as to the proportion of people behind bars  in terms of population, with the top spots going  

  • to Louisiana and Oklahoma. These states have the  highest incarceration rates in the entire world,  

  • and that includes the developing world. The  three-strikes law has played a big part in this

  • Ok, so in spite of Texas never really solving its  crime problem, it's been known as a tough on crime  

  • state for many years. In the 1970s, it had its own  kind of three-strikes law. This is how it worked  

  • out for a person called William James Rummel. He'd fraudulently used a credit card and spent  

  • $80, for which he was sentenced to three  years. When he got out, he passed a forged  

  • check to the value of $28.36. He got four years  for that. A few years later when he was once  

  • again enjoying his freedom, he complained that  someone hadn't repaired his air-conditioning  

  • unit very well. He refused to hand over  the $120.75 bill for the repair. For that,  

  • he was convicted of felony theft. Because of  the three-strikes law in place, he was given a  

  • life sentence without the possibility of paroleOver the nine years when his crimes took place,  

  • he'd stolen the grand total of $230. Just let that sink in for a second

  • This was the law, and so the judge did what  he had to do, but it also caused controversy.  

  • The good news is, after appeals, Rummel got  out of prison after seven years. It also led to  

  • Texas changing the law so three strikers could be  sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.  

  • Still, life for a measly $230 would seem utterly  crazy to most people living outside of the USA

  • This is why the three-strikes  law is so controversial.  

  • It's why many activists in the U.S. want  judges to have discretion and not have  

  • their hand forced by the three-strike ruleOn the other hand, hardliners say, tough,  

  • commit the crime- do the time. Ok, so you also need to know a  

  • thing about crime classification if you want to  understand this controversial law. In the U.S.,  

  • you have things called infractionsThese crimes are not serious at all,  

  • such as parking your car where it shouldn't be  parked or dropping litter in the street. You don't  

  • usually do jail time for this, although people  have done time for not paying traffic fines

  • Then you have misdemeanors, such as being wasted  in public and causing a nuisance of yourself,  

  • or indecent exposure, or reckless driving, or  petty theft, such as stealing a pizza slice.  

  • The thing is, there are classes of misdemeanors  and the classification might be different in each  

  • state. Also, if you get caught twice for  the same misdemeanor, it can be promoted  

  • to a felony. If, say, you were a habitual  pizza slice thief and you kept getting caught,  

  • the misdemeanors could turn into felonies  and you could in effect face life in prison

  • Then you have bigger crimes called  felonies. They also have classes,  

  • so if you murder someone in cold blood for no  reason but the fact you felt like doing it,  

  • it will be a class A felony, or class 1 in some  states. Still, as you know, forging a check,  

  • even if it's small, is a felony. So is burglaryor tax evasion, or driving under the influence,  

  • or copyright infringement, or having in your  possession a bunch of psilocybin mushrooms

  • Not surprisingly, even though felonies are all  deemed serious crimes, the sentence should be  

  • in proportion to the crime. Even if you're caught  distributing magic mushrooms all over your town,  

  • you won't get the same sentence as a convicted  murderer. As for drug kingpins, they definitely  

  • can get life sentences. There are people right now  serving a life sentence without the possibility  

  • of parole for marijuana offenses. This is why some people think the  

  • three-strikes law needs to be, er, struck. Back in California, you had the case of  

  • Duane Silva. He was 23 when he was sentenced  to 30 years to life. This man had an IQ of 70,  

  • suffered from depression and hallucinations, and  was most certainly mentally ill. He set fire to  

  • some trash, and later to a glove compartment in  a car, and then was caught stealing coins and a  

  • VCR from a neighbor's house. That was three  strikes. It was estimated his incarceration  

  • would cost taxpayers half a million bucks. We found more cases of people who hadn't  

  • committed serious felonies and then got hit  with a very long sentence on the third strike

  • One guy got life for stealing baby shoes. Another  got life for 0.14 grams of meth. Another for 0.09  

  • grams of heroin, and another for the theft  of chocolate chip cookies from a restaurant.  

  • One man was sentenced to life for stealing a pair  of gloves, while another got the same for stealing  

  • a pair of socks. A $14 haul was enough for one  judge to give another man a life sentence, while  

  • another faced life for issuing drunken threats to  a cop. In this case, the court said the man was no  

  • threat to society and so it was regrettable  that under the law he had to serve life

  • Now back to the pizza thief. Let's recall that before picking  

  • on those kids, his worst crimes were  arguably robbery and drug possession

  • Deputy Public Defender Arnold T. Lester  said his punishment was cruel and unusual,  

  • saying even if a person is a recidivist, such  crimes should never, ever result in a life  

  • sentence. He told the media, “Seems to me that  society is going crazy.” He's had 25 years since  

  • then to see the incarceration rate skyrocket. Nonetheless, prosecutors and a good part of the  

  • public disagreed, saying they thought  revolving door justice didn't work,  

  • and being soft on crime only leads to more  crime. State Attorney General, Daniel E. Lungren  

  • said Williams was a career criminal, a thug who  terrorized children. After the trial, he said he  

  • firmly believed that people could live in peace  knowing their children were safe from Williams

  • The American Civil Liberties Union didn't  agree. It has said that since the three-strike  

  • law has been in existence the streets are not any  safer. It said the only thing that has happened  

  • is prisons are bursting at the seams, and often  people that go in for small crimes become addicted  

  • to drugs or commit crimes in prison under the  duress of gangs. Rather than rehabilitate,  

  • prisons can have the opposite effect. So, many go  in, then come out and commit another crime. Three  

  • strikes and prison becomes home for a long time. Some activists talk about arrest quotas and  

  • private prison quotas, saying that a prison  industrial complex has been created in the  

  • name of profit, not justice or the well-being of  the American people. They also argue that judicial  

  • discretion is the hallmark of any justice system. Many critics of the law say if it evidently  

  • doesn't deter crime, what's the point in having  it? They say the many billions that it costs  

  • for trials and long-term imprisonment  should be spent on education and social  

  • improvements, such as better education and more  opportunities for the poor. This, they believe,  

  • is the only workable deterrent to crime. We're not cherry-picking resources here.  

  • For the most part, academics and the media  are saying this. You can find supporters of  

  • the law if you look hard enough, although  as the American Bar Association writes,  

  • when the empirical data is looked at closelythe  law simply cannot deliver on its promises.” Still,  

  • the association points out, like with the utterly  and provably disastrous war on drugs, politicians  

  • seem unwilling to change anything. Being tough on  crime, and of course, drug crime, is often what  

  • gets them into power. Fighting crime is also  an industry that would be hard just to undo

  • As for Williams, when serving time in  Fulson prison he got the name, “Pizzaman”,  

  • although he said most people who heard that  name thought he'd killed a pizza delivery man.  

  • When inmates heard he'd gotten a life sentence for  stealing a pizza slice they didn't believe him

  • After serving five years, the law in  California was slightly amended and he got out.  

  • The three-strikes law is still there, but the  severity of the crime has to be worse than  

  • stealing pizza to receive a life sentence. Stillnon-violent drug offenses count, as does burglary,  

  • as do many other non-violent crimes. This is what Williams once  

  • said about his harsh sentencing: “They sentenced me for my size and color.  

  • I can't help my size and color. I got 25 years for  a $1.25 slice of pizza and for what I did before,  

  • not what I did on that dayIt's not because  of three strikes. It's because I grew up.” 

  • In 2003, he was charged with a misdemeanornothing more than a heated argument with  

  • his girlfriend at the time. He said after that  that he felt like he was walking on eggshells,  

  • never knowing what small infraction could  land him back in prison for a long, long time

  • If you liked that, you'll love, “Most  Evil Prisoner Kept in Glass Box.”  

  • This is equally shocking, “Why Prisoner  Proven Innocent Can't Be Released.”

The sun is shining down on Redondo Beach in  California on a blisteringly hot day at the end of  

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 sentence crime pizza life stealing prison

Man Gets a Life Sentence in Prison for Stealing a Slice of Pizza

  • 0 0
    林宜悉 posted on 2021/02/26
Video vocabulary