Let’s play pretend.
I’m a prosecutor. (I said this is pretend). I’ve been a lawyer for 3 years. I’ve tried a bunch of cases and now I have a trafficking case with a 25 year minimum mandatory. The drugs on the defendant were in a prescription bottle in the name of his girlfriend, and his girlfriend is sick.
His story doesn’t sound right, and he’s got some petty priors. I’m suspicious and based on the facts of the case he may have been selling his girlfriend’s drugs for money.
I talk with some people in my office and I offer 7 years. The defense says “no dice.” A few months go by, and I offer five years. “No dice”
Trial approaches and I’m concerned, so I discuss the case with some senior prosecutors and offer 3 ½ years. “No dice.”
Now the case proceeds to trial and the Herald quotes me as saying the legislator authorized the penalty and I’m just doing my job. A furor erupts and here we are.
According to some prosecutors, this may have been the scenario in the case we have been discussing, however I HAVE MADE UP THE PLEA OFFER NUMBERS FOR THE PURPOSES OF DISCUSSION. No one should place any weight in the possible plea offers I have speculated about here. I have no way of knowing if I am even close to what was discussed between the parties.
Looking at this from another angle, the issue may have been “what was the prosecutor to do?”
He does not believe the defendant is innocent.
He does not believe the 25 year minimum mandatory penalty is just in this case, and within the bounds of what his office has authorized, he has tried to settle the case.
The quote in Herald makes him look like an uncaring bureaucrat, and nothing could be further from the truth.
Rumpole says there are several solutions to his problem, starting with re-charging the Defendant with attempted trafficking. It is a serious crime, the guidelines can still be high, but there is no 25 year minimum mandatory sentence. But we are speaking from both experience and without a half dozen layers of supervisors sitting over us.
Does this scenario more accurately reflect what occurred before Judge Scola last week?
If it does, then blame still lies, in our opinion, with the State Attorneys Office.
Put simply, the charge to “do justice” outweighs even the arrogance or stupidity of a defendant or his attorney or both.
It is still wrong and an injustice to punish a defendant so severely for actions that do not merit that punishment, even where the defendant is not smart enough to resolve the case.
Because the legislature has seen fit to take drug sentencing out of the hands of (hopefully) experienced and learned Judges and place that awesome power in the hands of a 25 year old prosecutor, the prosecutor now bears the additional responsibility of making sure the punishment fits the crime. Therefore, even though this case can and probably should be seen from the other side of the courtroom, (the prosecutor’s side) the office of the SAO still bears the ultimate responsibility for explaining in this case why they insisted on trying a man for a crime where the punishment would not have been just.
See You In Court, sitting on the “other side” of the courtroom, just for the heck of it.