‘The Purpose of Incarceration Is Supposed to Be Rehabilitation’ – Defense Attorney Argues for Suspended Sentence Due to COVID-19

By Serene Chang

ALAMEDA, CA – Keandre Lamar Battle’s defense attorney passionately argued for the judge here in Alameda County Superior Court Monday to suspend her client’s state prison sentence because he’s behaved as a law-abiding citizen while he was released from custody due to COVID-19.

Battle was released in March 2020 because his health conditions led him to be at risk for contracting COVID-19. Since then, Battle has remained out of custody and has not had any contact with the law.

Instead of completing his two-year sentence in state prison, the defense asked the court to consider sentencing him to probation, with the two years as a suspended sentence, in light of his health issues and demonstration that incarceration will not be necessary for his rehabilitation.

“The purpose of incarceration is supposed to be rehabilitation,” asserted the defense. “If someone has demonstrated they don’t require incarceration in order to be rehabilitated, what is the purpose, then, of incarcerating them?

In response, Judge Thomas Nixon remarked that Battle already pleaded to a two-year prison sentence and was released with an understanding that he would eventually have to serve time.

Nixon stated he has received numerous cases with this exact argument, with Deputy District Attorney Amanda Chavez jumping in to emphasize how similar cases have been “filling” their calendars.

The defense spoke to Battle’s character by declaring to the court that Battle has two young children he needs to care for and has done everything the court has asked of him, including attending every court date.

DDA Chavez reminded the judge that the defendant was charged for speeding at 120 miles per hour on the freeway, going through the center divider, and nearly crashing into two cars, making clear Battle is not a model citizen by any means.

“The other problem is he negotiated this over our objection to give him more time,” Chavez said. “He already got the benefit of getting less time and now counsel’s asking for him to do no time or LCA, and the People have to continuously object to this request.”

Battle’s defense attorney stood her ground, retorting that home incarceration is punishment enough as it will cost the family $3,000, while still allowing for Battle to take care of his children.

As agreed upon from Battle’s previous sentencing, he has to turn himself into custody on Sept. 13. The defense attempted to prolong his custody date, asking if the court would allow for him to surrender himself the first week of January after his son’s birthday in November and after the close of the holiday season.

The judge denied the defense’s requests, but extended Battle’s home sentence to Sept. 27.

Although the judge and defense attorney disagreed intensely throughout this sentencing, the judge made clear he understood the defense’s position, noting, “I’m not trying to be difficult. I understand why you’re making your argument. If I were you, I would be doing the exact same thing—except, probably not as eloquently.”

About The Author

Serene Chang is a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying History, Journalism, and Human Rights. She is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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