“Exceptional Depravity” in California – A double murder in Davis offers vital lessons for juvenile justice reformers.

On December 12, Yolo County, California, Superior Court Judge David Reed sentenced 17-year-old convicted murderer Daniel Marsh to 52 years-to-life in state prison. Judge Reed rejected Marsh’s lawyer’s contention that such a term, even with possibility of parole, would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The circumstances of the crime and Marsh’s sentencing raise questions about juvenile justice in the Golden State.

Marsh was just 15 years old on April 14, 2013, when he broke into the Davis home of 87 year-old Oliver “Chip” Northup, an attorney and popular bluegrass musician, and his 76 year-old wife, Claudia Maupin, a pastoral associate at the Davis Unitarian church where the couple met. An early report from Davis police said Marsh killed the couple “in way that manifested exceptional depravity.” As testimony at Marsh’s lengthy trial confirmed, this was no exaggeration. Psychologist James Rokop called Marsh a sexual sadist who killed solely to gratify himself. Victoria Hurd, Claudia Maupin’s daughter, told the court that an expert had to restore her mother’s body before she could see it, “just so we could hold her hand and kiss her goodbye.” Marsh “terrorized, tortured” and was “sadistic and without remorse,” continuing to attack Claudia after she pleaded for him to stop.

h/t RSM