D.C. Superior Court Judge Reggie Walton, imposing sentence in the brutal killing of a Northeast Washington woman, yesterday called on Mayor Marion Barry and the D.C. Council to allow judges to order life terms without parole in some first-degree murder cases.
"I think people who sit in high places should come down here to the court and see the violent, vicious, cruel, inhuman things that people do to other people," Walton said. " . . . In view of the constant violence that is taking place in the streets of this city, we need to ensure that they can never come back and do this to another person again."
Walton, a former prosecutor known for handing out maximum sentences for violent crimes, made the remarks during a hearing for Kenneth Hubbard, the 26-year-old Northeast man who sodomized and strangled Peggy Russell Gee, a nurse who had worked as an aide in Barry's 1986 reelection campaign.
The maximum sentence for first-degree murder in the District is 20 years to life. A person convicted of first-degree murder must serve at least 20 years before becoming eligible for parole.
Walton imposed the maximum sentence on Hubbard for the murder count, and also ordered the maximum 10- to 30-year sentence for first-degree burglary and the maximum one-year sentence for attempted sodomy.
Although he ordered the sentences to run consecutively, Walton said District law regarding credit for time served is unclear on how much additional time Hubbard must serve before becoming eligible for parole.
The judge said he wished he could order that Hubbard serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole because, under existing parole regulations, Hubbard will be free when he is "still a relatively young man."
"You should never be able to have the opportunity to do this again," Walton told Hubbard.
"It totally boggles my mind to be here day in and day out and to see the number of human beings who engage in these violent acts to others," he said.
Walton stopped short of calling for a death penalty statute, but he said some cases justify harsher treatment than is possible under current law.
In response to Walton's remarks, a spokesman for Barry said the mayor, a staunch opponent of the death penalty, would support a law to impose life sentences without parole.
Walton's remarks brought an immediate invitation from Council Chairman David A. Clarke to present a proposal to the council, according Mike Davis, a spokesman for Clarke.
"The chairman, who is a lawyer, has spent many hours in courtrooms and is very aware of what people are capable of doing to one another," Davis said.
Walton, 38, has been mentioned as a possible successor to U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova, whose term expired last month. He was appointed to the bench by President Reagan in 1981, when he was the third-ranking official under then-U.S. Attorney Charles Ruff.
Hubbard's attorney, Greta Van Susteren, asked Walton to give Hubbard "a little bit of hope" because she said there is a possibility Hubbard can be rehabilitated in prison. She said Hubbard had a long history of psychological instability and had been variously diagnosed as having a personality disorder and schizophrenia.
Hubbard, who stood impassively "I think people who sit in high places should come down here to the court and see the violent, vicious, cruel, inhuman things that people do to other people."
-- Judge Reggie Walton
throughout Walton's remarks, said he regretted his actions.
"I'm sorry I did it and that it ever happened," Hubbard said.
Hubbard originally agreed to plead guilty only to first-degree murder, but prosecutors withdrew the offer and insisted that Hubbard also plead guilty to the burglary and sodomy charges.
Gee's partly clothed body was found by firefighters in the early morning hours of June 14, 1986. Her Northeast home had been ransacked and three fires had been set, including one in the dining room on top of a rug that Hubbard used to roll around her body.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Keeney said in a sentencing memorandum that "Hubbard made Peggy Gee's last minutes of life a nightmare come true." Hubbard entered Gee's house by breaking a bathroom window, struggled with her and struck her several times in the face.
The violence turned sexual, Keeney said, as Hubbard bit Gee on the left breast and sodomized her. A portion of the physical evidence against Hubbard was a matching dental impression taken from the body. The medical examiner's office determined that Gee's death was caused by strangulation. When Hubbard pleaded guilty in October, he said he killed Gee "with my hands."
After the sentencing, Gee's brother and son told reporters that they were satisfied that Walton had done all he could to lessen the chances of Hubbard killing again, and they supported his call for stiffer penalties for murderers.
The son, Michael Gee of Stamford, Conn., said he was relieved by the sentencing, and he said the last 18 months had been a "horrific ordeal" for his family.
"After the initial shock of something like this, it takes several months just to be able to interact with people without being overcome," he said. "Then it takes a few more months to be able to sit in a courtroom like we did this morning."
Gee said his mother "could not have believed that a crime like this could happen in her neighborhood," but he said her concern about the growing problems of crime and drug abuse had led her to become active in politics.
"She loved this city very much," Gee said. "She loved it not so much for what it was but for what she thought it could become."