John Albert Gardner: Where Did the System Fail?


John Albert Gardner was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. He pleaded guilty to the murder and rape of two teenage girls in the county of San Diego. He was not given the death penalty because he pleaded guilty to killing Amber Dubois and Chelsea King in an attempt to rape them. We will discuss whether the criminal justice system failed Gardner’s victims or not and also try to show where it failed if so.


Gardner was once put behind bars for molesting a child but was later on released. His guilty plea during the sentencing triggered a heated debate on how the courts in California deal with sex offenders. Many people made calls for stiffer penalties for sex offenders especially those who attack children. In 2000, Gardner was convicted for beating and molesting a girl aged 13 years in San Diego. He was supposed to serve a maximum of 11 years in prison, but he only served five years out of the six that prosecutors called for. The court only sentenced him for five years even after a psychiatrist, appointed by the court called for a maximum sentence as stipulated by the law. The psychiatrist said in a statement that Gardner was a continued nuisance to young girls and was also not a good candidate for treatment. The courts should have seized on this opportunity to put him behind bars for good to safeguard other future victims from falling prey to Gardner (San, 2010).

The Judicial System Failed

From the above instance, it seems that it was only the psychiatrist who saw Gardner for what he was, a dangerous individual who was not supposed to be left to walk the streets freely. The criminal justice system failed Gardner’s victims very much. Had his parole been revoked, he would have been free to commit more crimes. Gardner did not just confess his crime, he also went ahead to talk about it to news reporters. To make matters worse, Gardner lived just a few meters from a preschool for 16 months while on parole. This was in violation of parole regulations that prohibited offenders of his stature from living near a school, in fact, within half a mile of a school. As if this was not enough, an official from the corrections department allowed him to stay there until his lease expired. The system did not notice that Gardner continued to stay in that place after the expiry of his lease until a year later. He also violated the parole regulations by having low batteries in the GPS device he was supposed to wear (Thompson, 2010).

Had the parole board been serious with their work, these violations could not have occurred. The board could have undertaken the necessary action by sending him back to prison, but instead, they chose to keep him on parole. Investigations showed that Gardner committed six other violations while on parole although, the violations were considered less serious (Thompson, 2010).


The department of corrections in California should change its policies regarding sex offenders. It should make sure that sex offenders appear before the Board of parole for hearings if they violate parole no matter how less serious the violation is. It is, therefore, very clear that the criminal justice system failed Gardner’s victims by not taking Gardner back to prison even after violating parole regulations. Had the system followed the rules to the latter, perhaps the two girls could still be living.


San, D. (2010). John Albert Gardner to Face Victims’ Kin. CBS News. Web.

Thompson, D. (2010). John Albert Gardner III parole cited in draft. Articles Gate. Web.