Well, chalk this one up as another example of the failure of the criminal justice system as it currently exists.
Last week, according to investigators, Tyrone McAllister shot somebody during a robbery on the streets of Oakland. The victim, who was from Southern California, did not survive the attack. This week police took McAllister and a 28-year-old man with a long history of criminal behavior into custody for murder with special circumstances.
That means that he’s eligible for the death penalty – not that he’ll ever see the inside of the execution chamber of California, but he can still technically be sentenced to death under the current system.
If the name Tyrone McAllister doesn’t mean anything to you, it should. This is the same young man that viciously beat a 71-year-old Sikh man at Greystone Park in Manteca last August and was sentenced to a year in the San Joaquin County Jail as part of a plea agreement.
Yes, you read that absolutely right – he violently assaulted a senior citizen during an attempted robbery last August, was sentenced to only a year behind bars in December, and allegedly killed somebody just over 8 months later.
In the coming months, there is going to be a lot of finger pointing that goes on and a lot of people trying to blame somebody for the fact that this young man should have been behind bars for what he was already observed on surveillance footage doing, but unfortunately the entity that deserves the most blame here isn’t a human being.
The system as it currently exists in California is what is to blame for this travesty, and I don’t honestly see it changing anytime soon.
California’s overcrowded prison system led to a Supreme Court decision that gave us the wonderful AB109 realignment program – where non-violent, non-sexual, and non-serious convicts can spend the last parts of their prison bids in county jails and those who would typically spend up to a year in a county facility monitored closely through an enhanced probation department.
It was a solution to a problem that needed to be addressed as the United States Supreme Court that ruled on the matter. Throughout the state people sprang into action to try and alleviate that overcrowding while at the same time keeping some semblances of criminal justice intact.
It wasn’t much of a revelation that McAllister had broken bad – his father was a police chief, and was estranged from his son after he fell in with a bad crowd – but it also wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that his first exposure to the court system would have shocked him into realizing that his life needed to go a different direction. Sometimes that happens, and surely having a probation officer checking up on you and facing the possibility of a long prison stint if you don’t comply can be the motivation that people need to make changes. But, as we know now, this was not an example of that. On the day that he allegedly shot and killed somebody (the other person charged in the crime had text messages on his phone to an acquaintance telling them that McAllister was the trigger man) he also allegedly robbed somebody else at gunpoint in East Oakland. And there is absolutely no way of knowing how many times he held a gun in somebody’s face and demanded their property before he allegedly pulled the trigger. People don’t typically get caught their first time out, and even with probation hanging over his head, McAllister was still out there committing felonies even after he got what many felt was a light sentence for a very serious crime.
The prosecutor had to agree to it. The judge had to approve it. And in this case, even the victim of the assault said that he was happy with the way things turned out. It’s hard to blame any of them for something that they had no way of knowing would happen, but it’s also a shock that he committed the ultimate crime still within the term of which he was originally sentenced.
Could this have been inevitable? Maybe. Hindsight is always 20-20, and it’s easy to become jaded and not offer anybody a chance at redemption when you measure the successes of everyone by the failures of a few.
But it’s hard to see any way in which this is a just outcome for anyone involved – especially the family of the victim in the Oakland slaying.
It’s also not just to the people who will end up making a mistake in the future, falling into the criminal justice system, and not be given the kind of opportunity that McAllister was out of fear that somebody will end up going down the same path that he did. Leniency won’t be quite as lenient, and when it is the kind of person that would respond to having a sentence hanging over their head, they may not get the chance to turn it around and prove that they can be a productive, contributing member of society.
It’s important to point out that the same criminal justice system that I’m referring to is built on the foundation that those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty, and this case is no different. McAllister hasn’t had his day in court for these new charges, and he will be afforded the opportunity to explain himself through an attorney.
But considering that we’re still within the term he was originally sentenced to, the fact that he beat an elderly man that he tried to rob is accepted as fact at this point – the fact that he returned to kick a downed senior citizen before running away, joking, can’t be disputed.
While I agree that the sentence for the Manteca beating was far from a travesty of justice – everybody involved in the case seemed to be on the same page, including the victim – there’s a new victim with a family that wishes they would have gone a little bit harder.
And that, truly, is a travesty.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.