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People v. DU

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. No. BA037738 (Superior Court, Los Angeles County, 1991).

Brief Fact Summary.

Judge Karlin sentenced the Defendant, Du (Defendant), to ten years in state prison, but then suspended the sentence and placed her on probation. The portion of the case provided by the Dressler handbook includes the judge’s remarks at sentencing.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

In imposing a sentence, a judge must first consider the objectives of sentencing a defendant, including: (1) to protect society; (2) to punish the defendant for committing a crime; (3) to encourage the defendant to lead a law-abiding life; (4) to deter others; (5) to isolate the defendant so she cannot commit other crimes; (6) to secure restitution for the victim and (7) to seek uniformity in sentencing.


The Defendant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter following the shooting of fifteen year old Latasha Harlins (Harlins) after an altercation in a convenience store owned by the Defendant’s family. The gun that the Defendant used to shoot Harlins with had previously been altered without the Defendant’s knowledge. Further, the Defendant had decided to work that particular shift at the convenience store in order to allow her son to work at another store that the family owned. The Defendant made this decision because her son had previously been the victim of threats by local gang members.


Can the objectives of sentencing be achieved through conviction of the Defendant to ten years of incarceration?


Probation is a more appropriate form of sentence than incarceration in this case.


Judge Karlin discussed each particular sentencing objective. The following is a brief synopsis of her remarks:
Because of the unique nature of each crime of voluntary manslaughter, uniformity in sentencing is virtually impossible to achieve.

The Defendant does not need to be incarcerated in order to protect society.

Society does not need the Defendant to be incarcerated in order to be protected.

State prison is not needed in order to encourage the Defendant to lead a law-abiding life.

State prison is not needed in order to isolate the Defendant so that she cannot commit other crimes.

State prison is not necessary because this is an unusual case. There are three reasons for this result. First, the criminal statute in question is not aimed at shopkeepers who lawfully possess firearms for their own protection. Second, the Defendant had no record at the time of committing similar crimes or crimes of violence. Finally, the Defendant participated in this crime under great provocation, coercion and duress.

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