The business of entertainment journalism is well-known: Build ’em up, tear ’em down. It’s a constant media cycle of promoting (in our opinion) often vapid and only moderately talented “celebrities” before reveling in their overly sensationalized demise. Given this, the almost joyous frenzy surrounding the recent sentencing of Lindsay Lohan is of little surprise. What is shocking, however, is that, amid all the intense media coverage of Ms. Lohan’s recent run-ins with the law, not a lawyer has stated, publicly and
unequivocally, what most in the legal profession privately agree: Ms. Lohan does not deserve her sentence of life imprisonment without parole.
Cutting through all the tabloid coverage, the case against life imprisonment comes down to fundamentally sound legal principles. Life imprisonment without parole is given to criminals guilty of infliction of great bodily harm, high treason, drug dealing, and human trafficking. See Life imprisonment, 1 Wikipedia 2010 (information added to entry by author). The prosecution’s successful categorizing of Lohan’s behavior into each of these categories was, without a doubt, a brilliantly novel strategy. It was also, however, a miscarriage of justice that should be overturned.
The first charge against Lohan named her as the responsible party for the 391 suicides that have been recorded among the estimated 8,900 individuals worldwide who actually sat through the entirety of Herbie Fully Loaded, a rate of more than 4 percent. Such a high suicide rate among a class of moviegoers is certainly uncommon, though not unheard of. (One study has found, for example, that nearly 38 percent of those who paid to see Bio-Dome in theaters attempted to kill themselves within a year.) Relying on the concept of vicarious liability, the prosecutor charged Lohan with 391 counts of inflicting serious bodily injury. The trial on these charges, however, was seriously flawed. Instead of proving proximate cause between the suicides and the traumatic experience of having to spend more than 100 minutes watching people talk to a car, the prosecution merely entered the movie into evidence and screened the entire film for the judge and jury. Such evidence is clearly prejudicial and the jury should never have been allowed to see it, especially after two jury members hung themselves in the judge’s robe closet during a recess.
Similar errors occurred in the prosecution of Lohan’s drug-dealing charge. The prosecution’s entire case was based on the plot of Georgia Rule, which is a fictional story in which Lohan was only an actress. Yes, it is true that in the movie Lohan is addicted to various narcotics, and anyone could see that the footage from the movie that highlighted her character‘s drug use was particularly affecting to the jury. But, again, this character does not exist in the real world. This in itself should have been sufficient to acquit Lohan on the drug-dealing charge, were it not for the incompetence of Lohan’s court-appointed attorney, who was also clearly confused between Georgia Rule and the actual life of his client. Although his stirring oratory about the child abuse and rape that Lohan suffered at the hands of her stepfather was truly compelling, this, again, pertained only to the on-screen persona Lohan had adopted for a movie role. The testimony of actor Cary Elwes, who co-starred in the movie, attempted to explain this crucial difference, to no avail. As such, his being sentenced to 36 years in prison for child abuse and rape was also completely unjustified.
Further, Ms. Lohan’s conviction for high treason represented a simple case of mistaken identity. The prosecution charged that, from September 2009 to March 2010, Ms. Lohan was a foreign collaborator for the French and Spanish governments. Most of the prosecution’s case rested on her intricate connections with French national Emanuel Ungaro and Spanish notable Estrella Archs, and various photographs were shown to the jury of their meetings overseas. However, a simple Google search on those names reveals that those individuals are not spies or agents of espionage, but extremely well-known fashion designers. In fact, celebrity gossip magazines wrote extensively about her work with the designers in launching her own fashion line. It is simply astonishing that the prosecution’s assertions that Mr. Ungaro was “responsible for the sabotage of numerous Indianapolis seafood cannery facilities” and that Ms. Archs “bought classified military information about microwave ovens” went uncontested throughout the trial. Ms. Lohan fell victim to an overambitious prosecutor who played hard and loose with the facts, while her own public defender couldn’t dedicate more than a few minutes to reviewing and preparing for her case. Even the most basic research would revealed her line of vibrant, colorful skintight mini-skirts and surely resulted in the charges being dropped.
Lastly, yes, Ms. Lohan did plead no contest to human trafficking. We have no idea what that’s about. But even so, under the federal sentencing guidelines, Lohan’s judge should have taken into account the following mitigating factors: a lesbian relationship with a disc jockey, performing a song called “Very Last Moment In Time,” having red hair, upcoming nude scene in a movie about a porn star, and having multiple citations for driving under the influence. All in all, following the guidelines, Lindsay Lohan deserves, at the very most, a 15-year sentence in a Supermax penitentiary.
But, alas, Ms. Lohan is now doomed to spend the rest of her earthly moments locked behind an iron gate in a tall, stone tower, looking out over the countryside and dreaming of the life that she might have led. Clearly, Ms. Lohan is not perfect. She is human. And humans deserve justice. And life imprisonment without parole for an imperfect human such as Ms. Lohan is not justice. It is injustice.