The U.S. justice system is built on the idea that all human lives hold inherent equal value. In theory, murdering the president of the United States and murdering a homeless person should be viewed as equally reprehensible crimes because the value of human life does not change according to one's accomplishments.
Of course, we all know that this principle is rarely applied perfectly in the real world. The fact of the matter is sentences often vary drastically depending on who the victim of the crime is, regardless of the actual offense. But few, if any, lawyers in the past had the guts to explicitly invoke this idea in their arguments. Yesterday, Queens defense attorney John Scarpa reportedly did just that.
Scarpa is the defense attorney for Queens resident Rasheen Everett. Yesterday, Everett was handed a hefty prison sentence for the murder of Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, a transgender New York prostitute. Everett strangled Andujar to death after discovering that she had male genitalia. But before Everett’s 29-year prison sentence was finalized, Scarpa tried to argue that the punishment was too harsh since Andujar was so low class.
“A sentence of 25 years to life is an incredibly long period of time judge,” Scarpa said. “Shouldn’t that be reserved for people who are guilty of killing certain classes of individuals?”
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Scarpa’s next question should make human rights activists everywhere cringe.
“Who is the victim in this case?” he asked. “Is the victim a person in the higher end of the community?”
Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter immediately rejected Scarpa’s rationale.
"This court believes every human life in sacred," he said. "It’s not easy living as a transgender, and I commend the family for supporting her."
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Buchter referred to Everett, who repeatedly laughed at the victim’s brother during an emotional testimony, as “a coldhearted and violent menace to society.” Everett's ex-girlfriend revealed during her testimony that she broke up with him after he tried to choke her as well.
According to the Queens Chronicle, Everett arrived at Andujar's apartment just before 9:00 a.m. on March 27, 2010. A few minutes after that, neighbors allegedly heard screams and "loud banging consistent with a struggle." Nearly a full day later, Everett emerged from Andujar's residence carrying two bags filled with her belongings. Her body was eventually found covered in bleach.
Everett was arrested two weeks later in Las Vegas.