This legal term is strange because how can someone serve two life sentences when we only have one life? When a judge decrees sentencing and orders back to back life sentences, he is ensuring that the prisoner will stay in prison. In order for this to be applicable, both crimes that the felon was convicted of need to have “life in prison” as an applicable sentence.
When a felon is sentenced to life in prison, most of the time, after 25 years of the sentence, the felon is up for parole. A double life sentence ensures that even after 25 years of serving the first life sentence, the felon has to wait an additional 25 years before being eligible for parole again for his second sentence (even if he “receives parole on the first sentence). Therefore, it ensures at least 50 years of imprisonment.
Sometimes the felon will be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The only way a felon will be able to leave prison will be through an appeal or through amnesty, reprieve, or commute by a government official. Many judges decide to give two consecutive life sentences as an insurance that the felon will at least be able to carry out one life sentences in the event that one of them gets overturned on appeal. A good criminal defense attorney will always attempt to get the life sentences served concurrently rather than consecutively.
There are many infamous criminals who are servicing consecutive life sentences such as Ted Kaczynski aka the Unabomber. He is serving 8 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Famous mobster John Gotti is also was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He was convicted in 1992 and submitted his final appeal in 1994. He died in prison in 2002. Rusell Henderson who was convicted of murder and kidnapping of Matthew Shepherd in Laramie, Wyoming, pleaded guilty in order to escape the death penalty. He was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. His partner Aaron McKinney was also sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.