Albert Morake was sentenced to 1,535 years in prison.
How can a person be sentenced to more than 1 life imprisonment?
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It tends to happen when someone is found guilty of multiple crimes. Sentences involving multiple convictions can be either concurrent or cumulative. Often, the law the defendant broke will specify whether the sentence should be concurrent or cumulative.
As an example of the latter, if a defendant is convicted of four cumulative crimes that have 15, 20, 10, and 5 year sentences, which often (though not necessarily) happens at the same trial, you'd expect to see a 50 year sentence.
That said, the judge's discretion plays an important role, and where they don't have to follow a mandatory formula, judges often consider criminal history, crime severity, need to protect the public, and so forth.
As a side note, some really long sentences are just a way to express public outrage. The three Madrid train bombers (2004, multiple murder counts) each received at least a 30,000 year sentence, although Spanish law caps imprisonment at 40 years.
Just to expand on what others have answered: It's important that each crime is also given its own sentence as it's possible that prisoners can be cleared of crimes if new evidence is found. This could make a significant difference to the amount of time the prisoner is serving.
For example if a person was convicted for kidnap, murder, and stealing a car, all adding up to a total of 120 years, but later was found to be a car thief who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and proven innocent of the kidnap and murder charges, that person would then only face the sentence from the car theft. If one life sentence had been issued for the three crimes, a new sentence would have to be worked out.
In this case, it was a life sentence for the crime of rape and he got 30 life sentences because he committed 30 rapes, and is sentenced separately for each.
Any time you see something talking about an absurdly long sentence, or about multiple life sentences, that's normally what happened. As a technical matter, many jurisdictions do not give convicted criminals a sentence. They impose a sentence for each and every single crime that the person was convicted of. In some jurisdictions (like US federal civilian courts), the appropriate sentence is calculated as a single thing to cover all the crimes, not independently for each crime. The sentence is still imposed separately for each crime, though.
Now, a judge can sentence someone to serve their terms consecutively or concurrently. At least in the US federal system, the norm is "concurrently" -- your sentence on each individual offense is either the statutory minimum/maximum or the appropriate overall sentence (if the overall sentence is within the statutory range), and you serve your sentences on all counts at the same time. Consecutive sentences only come in when your overall sentence is more than the maximum sentence you could be given on any individual count. With several life sentences or several death sentences, though, it doesn't really matter whether it's consecutive or concurrent; at that point, you may as well sentence them to consecutive life terms because it sounds more severe.
There are some parole considerations to keep in mind. Consecutive life sentences may leave you ineligible for parole longer than concurrent life sentences, or may force "life without parole" even if each individual crime was one where the maximum sentence included the possibility of parole. That's not the only reason, though: the US federal system doesn't have parole anymore, and this is still done.
Medical life extension, ie treatments for common age-related causes of death, is increasing at a surprisingly fast pace, and life expectancy is only increasing. An 18 year old now might possibly live to be 125.
The law doesn't, and shouldn't have to, take life expectancy into account when considering prison terms.
Many sentences allow for consecutive or concurrent punishments, mostly to avoid double jeopardy appeals when the same act may be punishable under two laws. Rather than make them both consecutive and possibly one being voided on appeal for being punished twice for one crime, the judge might allow the accused to serve the two sentences at the same time. Say one is 10 years, another is 25 years. If one falls on appeal, the other stands.
When looking at complex cases like this, you'll often see consecutive sentences where the crimes are repeated, and not the same. Such as the murder of several people, you might receive a sentence for each murder, and they might be served consecutively.
Further, parole is affected by the remainder of time left to serve. A person sentenced to only 10 years remaining is more likely to receive parole than a person who has 110 years remaining. Those with longer sentences serve them longer, even with liberal parole laws.
So the effect of absurdely long sentences is 1) make sure that if one charge falls, all have to fall before release, 2) make sure that particularly egregious crimes don't get parole as easily, and 3) avoid worrying about whether a long sentence is a "life" sentence or not, based on our rapidly progressing medical care.
some thinks, which crossed my mind:
So to prevent really bad criminals from getting out the longer than life sentence make sense.