JUDGE YOUNG’S SENTENCE.
We read the headline in the Herald on Saturday announcing the 31 year prison sentence Judge Young gave the 87 year old woman who shot and killed a 13 year old boy who was swimming in her pool in 1976. The woman fled after the trial and was only recently arrested. We confess our sin and admit that we were initially shocked by the sentence. We violated the same rule that we rail against among our friends and relatives: do not question the outcome of a case by merely reading the headline.
A few paragraphs into the article and it was abundantly clear why Judge Young sentenced the woman to the amount of time he did: she had no remorse for taking a human life, especially the life of a child. She deserved every year she got.
The real issue raised by Judge Young’s sentence was the time machine like quality of the proceedings. For a brief moment, the law on the 4th Floor of the REGJB in Dade County returned to the days when Judges were Judges and legislatures were…still bumpkins, but less meddling bumpkins.
There were no sentencing guidelines at the time the Defendant was convicted in this case, and the entire sentence was left to the discretion of the Judge, which turned out to be Judge Young some thirty years later. If the trial were held today a clerk could sentence the defendant, as Judge Young would have absolutely no discretion in the matter. We think that is wrong. We think it outrageous that Judges spend a quarter of million dollars to run for Judge, and then sit quietly by while the legislature takes more and more power away from them, turning them into robed clerks, whose job is defined by the ability to fill out forms, add numbers, check boxes, and sign orders.
Discretion, life experience, the particular facts of the case, remorse, or lack of remorse, have been outlawed and are not permitted as sentencing factors by a legislature intent on establishing minimum mandatory sentences for every type of crime. Racing on the Highway now has a minimum mandatory sentence for crying out loud.
When the guidelines were enacted, the legislature prattled on about fairness and uniformity of sentencing throughout the state, although it was clear to us that “liberal” ( you can read that as “Miami Liberal” ) judges were being targeted. It started with murder cases, and now has filtered down to misdemeanors.
We live in a State where a 25 year old prosecutor is more trusted by the legislature to decide whether a minimum mandatory sentence is appropriate, then the fifty year old Judge before whom the case is being tried. Something is wrong with that. And all the while Judges sat on their gavels and watched more and more of their discretion legislated away.
The Herald article revealed that Judge Young had not made up his mind about the sentence until hearing from the Defendant. Then, based on his experience as a former prosecutor, his years on the bench, and his overall life experience and common sense, he arrived at a sentence that he believed was just based on the facts and the defendant before him.
That’s how it’s supposed to work.
But unless a whole bunch of defendants who didn’t appear for court in 1976 start getting arrested, then it’s back to the current state of the Judiciary: a good calculator and sharp pencil to check a few boxes, and on to the next case.
Judges of Florida unite! You have nothing to lose and your power and discretion to gain.
Or do you robed readers like kowtowing to that 25 year old prosecutor who has been a lawyer two years and has more power over sentencing than you do?
See you in court with our calculator.