Re: LAW: Mandatory Sentences

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Sun Apr 16 2000 - 08:53:06 MDT

"E. Shaun Russell" wrote:
> Greg Burch wrote:
> >
> >US Federal judges have been dealing with lots of mandatory sentences for a
> >long time. All the ones I've talked to or read comments by HATE them. They
> >say that mandatory sentences result in palpable injustice too often and
> >causes absurd charging and plea bargaining when even the prosecutors can't
> >stand to see them applied.
> What a horrible notion. Each case obviously has a multitude of specifics,
> and is almost always different in some way from each case before it. Judge
> rulings reflect that. By imposing mandatory sentences, the right to fair
> trial as well as freedom of speech are demolished in one fell swoop. The
> law is an often infuriating, often beautiful piece of complex work...but
> for good reason. Keeping it this way for now, is much better than the
> alternative.
> BTW, which kind of laws are these mandatory sentences referring to?

THis is always the crux. The minimum sentence for Captial Murder is
death, and the minimum sentence for non-capital murder is typically a
life sentence, with or without parole (a minimum of 20 years). Should
these be less? I don't think so, though there is little evidence in the
body of statistics to show a deterrent factor for execution. What seems
to be the objection are minimum sentences that are disproportionate to
the rest of the criminal code. This objection sure has merit. However
what are the alternatives to minimum sentences? The reason they were
instituted was due to offenses on both ends of the scale. Liberal judges
in innner city courts would typically impose very lenient sentences upon
criminals for heinous crimes, while in rural southern and western states
(and yes, even in places like Massachusetts and New York State) you
would get bigoted white judges giving harsh sentences to minorities.

Right now in NH we are dealing with the dissolution of our State Supreme
Court due to improper influence by recused judges and the appearance of
financial improprieties. One judge not implicated has indicated that the
Chief Justice had also 'gone shopping' for judges for at least one case,
the Claremont decision, that he knew agreed with him, indicating not
only a rigging of the verdict, but a pretrial judgement by the Chief
Justice. That the highest judges in the state could be this corrupt,
when they are supposed to be the most ethical, bodes ill for all the
other judges in the system.

Judges are only human, like anyone else, and are just as prone to
personal faults. Personal faults should not become the faults of the
system, which is why I think that balanced and fair minimum sentences
(as well as maximums) are necessary.

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