WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES AND LAWYERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE.
POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM
Saturday, October 06, 2012
OF MICE, MEN, AND SENTENCING.
UPDATE: Nice win for Dolphins on the road in Cincy. This gem tweet from the Economist:
A study of Israeli parole hearings shows that just before a meal the chances of success are slim. But other biases abound too. A study of 181 American trial judges this summer in Science, a journal, showed that explaining the biology of psychopathy brought lighter sentences, by an average of one year. When the defence simply told the judges that the convict was a psychopath, the average sentence was 14 years.
Judges—flawed decision makers, like all humans—find sentencing the hardest bit of their job. Paul Chernoff, a retired American judge, says determining guilt or innocence is easier. Biases are visible across countries and cultures: for the same offence, male culprits get harsher sentences than women. Black criminals serve longer sentences than white ones. Attractive women and baby-faced men get shorter sentences.
States and the Federal Government responded to disparity in sentences for similarly situated defendants (same crime, same back ground) by enacting sentencing guidelines. But interestingly, it was the perception that lower sentences by liberal judges needed to be corrected. And correct it they did. Many federal judges now openly complain at the harshness of sentences they are forced to hand out. See our post here on Judge Weinstein in Brooklyn, NY, for example. We often say to judges who brag about their propensity to sentence defendants to the maximum that any robot or high school graduate can calculate numbers in a matrix to arrive at the highest possible sentence.
But it takes a Judge- a man or woman tempered by experience in life and law- to properly judge another human being's transgressions. Having worked without guidelines for part of our career and with guidelines for the last 27 years or so, we'll take sentencing without guidelines. The vagaries and personal prejudices of any particular judge are well worth risking in exchange for a real hearing, where the defense has a real chance, based on the particulars of the case, to influence the judge.
Give us a chance as an attorney to explain why Lennie Small killed the puppy, rather than just calculate the guidelines and minimum mandatory sentence. (For the less literate of y'all, the reference is to Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, which for you robed readers, is a rather short story.) Yes, there will be excesses on both sides, that's why appellate courts exist (besides writing "per curium affirmed").
What do you think?
Better yet, ponder your decision and enjoy our beautiful weather this weekend. You have better things to do.