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Oklahoma Man Gets Life in Prison for Spitting
Published on Friday, July 4, 2003 by the Guardian/UK
Oklahoma Man Gets Life in Prison for Spitting
by Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles

In what must rank as a warning to all footballers with short tempers who may think of playing in Oklahoma, a man has been jailed for life for spitting at a policeman.

John Marquez, 35, was sentenced this week for spitting at the police officer, who was trying to arrest him, in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

April Sellers White, the judge in Creek County acted on the recommendation of the jury who convicted Marquez under a law which makes it a felony to place bodily fluids on law enforcement officers.

The prosecution had asked for the milder sentence of 25 years. Marquez's lawyer, Jason Sterner, had suggested four years. Mr Sterner said that an appeal would be launched.

The law under which Marquez was sentenced was introduced in Oklahoma in 1996 and was aimed at protecting police officers from people with Aids attacking and possibly infecting them.

Marquez is a convicted rapist but it was not rape he was charged with when he appeared in court.

He had allegedly spat at police officer Charles Gadd as he was being arrested following a domestic argument in which a woman's arm was broken. He received a one-year sentence for that offence.

The court heard Marquez spat at the officer despite being warned not to and then bit the officer as he tried to stop him from spitting.

He was convicted in May but sentencing only took place this week.

Hundreds of prisoners are serving sentences of 25 years or more in California for such offences as shoplifting and drug possession.

These sentences are a result of the so-called "three strike" law which imposes a minimum of 25 years for a third felony conviction.

In a case earlier this year, the supreme court ruled that 50 years for shoplifting videos was not a "cruel and unusual punishment".

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003


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