Monday, January 25, 2016

Don't Judge Me

 So this Judge decided that he needed forgiveness and clearly this is how one Judge did so.  I have no real thoughts on this bizarre bullshit but it seems utterly full of crap.  He like many in his field can go take a flying leap as far as I am concerned as this year we have had Judges threaten to beat a PD up, others force them to donate blood, Judges who bully and berate and others who are surely incompetent and in over their robes that they pull over their heads.

So we elect Judges and appoint them via Politicians who feel that a corporate Lawyer who has of course shared a drink, paid a tab, donated to a campaign to elevate them into a job that they have little training, few qualifications and then place strangleholds such as minimum sentencing requirements that are fundamentally arbitrary and have little to do with logic, science or even history of effectiveness.   As one comment I found mentioned these Judges:
If you want to pick on judges, there are so many more cases you can pick out of your hat. Last year Judge Jeffrey Meyer, also of Connecticut, sentenced a dying man (Rober Lee Jr of Oxford, Connecticut) to 63 months in imprisonment for a white collar offense with approximately $1 million in losses. It was no secret that the man would die, he was rolled into sentencing on a wheelchair. Yet, Judge Meyer saw it fit to also berate the man at sentencing, just to make sure that before he leaves this world and meets his maker or decomposes into nothing, that the defendant knew what a horrible crime he had committed. Mr. Lee died 3 weeks later of incurable cancer. There are so many more.
Its not that Judges lack training per se, its just that they have been thoroughly de-humanized (hundreds of cases as if the practice of sentencing makes them experts, it does not). Judges also know very little about what goes in prison (yes, almost all inmates can pull out a folder of certificates). Judges are intentionally naive: they think that prison is the only sentence that counts as punishment, and are more often concerned about getting the right headline instead of doing what’s right. You know this better than most: Judges stick their head in the sand and then blame someone else or look for a solution to a problem they helped create. But its not due to the lack of training. I don’t think any thing can train a person to calculate how many months or years of a man’s life should be destroyed (whether its the defendant’s fault or not).
 Or there is Judge Chin and his sentence of Madoff to 150 years.  Judge Chin was pretty honest about why he chose 150 instead of say 20, he wanted to get the right headline. And he did. The newspapers all carried his quote: “extraordinary evil.” Right, as if stealing was worse than murder or blowing up people/buildings. Judge Chin also got a promotion to the 2nd Circuit a few months after that….You talk about training, Judges are not just ex-lawyers. They are trained politicians. Always hoping they don’t hurt their chance of a promotion….
So there you have the mea culpa. Yes they love their Latin.  

Did the Man I Sentenced to 18 Years Deserve It?


IN 2006, I sentenced a man to 18 years in prison. I have been wrestling with that decision ever since.
As a federal district judge, I’ve sentenced hundreds of people, but I’ve rarely agonized as much as I did over this man’s fate.

He was the enforcer for a brutal gang of drug dealers in Bridgeport, Conn., known as the Terminators, and had sold heroin, assaulted rival dealers and murdered a potential witness. But after a falling-out with the head of the gang, he turned over a stash house to the police and fled the state. When captured in 2001, he immediately confessed to the murder and later testified as a star witness for the prosecution.

Thus arose my problem: He had committed horrible crimes, but he also seemed to be making an unusually sincere effort to atone for them. So which man was I sentencing? The murderer or the remorseful cooperator?

The prosecutor rewarded his cooperation by filing a so-called 5K motion, which allowed me to ignore the mandatory life sentence he otherwise would have faced. Still, after weighing the seriousness of his crimes, I sentenced him to 18 years, which was more time than even the prosecutor wanted.
I gave a speech encouraging the defendant to make the most of his time in prison. He promised to work hard and ready himself to lead a productive life after his release. But nearly everyone I sentence says something similar.

In the years that followed, I often wondered whether his remorse was strong enough to overcome his past.

In 2012, I had the chance to find out. While attending a conference on sentencing issues, I learned that he was serving time in a prison nearby. I wanted to know whether he had become a better citizen or a better criminal. So I asked a prison staffer if I could meet with him in private.

That the warden felt no need to post a guard was my first clue that he had changed for the better. He was working in his first real job at the prison industries factory and had been promoted to supervisor. He showed me recommendations from prison employees for good jobs on the outside. He brought a folder full of certificates he had earned for attending classes. He talked lovingly about his girlfriend and daughter, with whom he planned to live as a family after his release.

The meeting made me proud of his accomplishments, but sad that I had not been more confident in him. He still had several years left on his sentence, but it was clear that he had served enough time.

After I returned to my office, I contacted the prosecutor and his lawyer and encouraged them to find a way to get him released early. But they told me there was no straightforward way to shorten a federal inmate’s sentence, even if prison officials acknowledge that more jail time is a waste of time and money. So he had to stay in prison, at an annual cost of $30,000 to taxpayers.

The tragedy of mass incarceration has recently focused much attention on the need to reform three-strikes laws, mandatory minimums and the federal-sentencing guidelines, which often direct judges to impose excessive sentences. We also need a mechanism for judges to re-evaluate the sentences they’ve imposed.

It’s true that federal prisoners can earn up to 15 percent off the length of their sentences if they stay out of trouble. But this doesn’t incentivize prisoners to take advantage of work or study opportunities.
Instead, Congress should enact legislation that would allow every sentenced defendant one opportunity to petition his sentencing court for a reduction based on extraordinarily good conduct and rehabilitation in prison.

This “second-look review” should be available only to prisoners who are supported by their wardens. To minimize the increased workload on busy federal judges, each prisoner should be allowed only a single opportunity to seek early release and do so only after serving at least half of the sentence imposed (or two-thirds of a mandatory minimum sentence).

Factors in support of an early release should include more than just clean disciplinary records in prison. Job readiness, success with drug treatment, completion of vocational and educational training and extraordinary family or health circumstances should count as well.

While the Bureau of Prisons has the authority under the existing “compassionate release” program to do much of what I advocate, that program has been used far too sparingly, in part because of bureaucratic hurdles. From 2008 to 2014, only 11 of the thousands of prisoners sentenced by federal courts in New York have been released under this program. Most of them were terminally ill. 

Compassionate release provides no realistic way out of prison. And prisoners with no reason to hope have little reason to reform.

I don’t advocate for a return to the flawed federal parole system that was essentially abolished in the 1980s. In that system, a judge who believed that a defendant should spend three years locked up would impose a nine-year sentence because parole was likely to be granted after he served one-third of it. But if that defendant’s parole was delayed or denied, the judge’s original intent was impeded. In contrast, my proposal would give the sentencing judge control. This makes sense because judges know whether a particular defendant got a break at sentencing or not and can best gauge the extent of positive change in a person.

The man I sentenced in 2006 will soon leave prison. Counting the time he served in custody before sentencing and time off for good behavior, he is scheduled to be released in April. In total, he will have served over 14 years. The last three years of that sentence, if not more, were a waste of time.
Upon his release, I will reach out to express my regret for rejecting the prosecutor’s request for leniency. And I will thank him for inciting my interest in this reform.

A “second look” to adjust sentences would give inmates an incentive to prepare themselves for productive lives on the outside, and allow judges like me to correct sentences that turn out, in hindsight, to be unnecessarily long. This would improve the fairness of our criminal justice system and increase the public’s confidence in our courts.

Stefan R. Underhill is a federal judge for the District of Connecticut.

 And then today this.....The Supremes never cease to amaze me as they roll in line in perfect a syncopany as the originals did;  the back up singers align with the lead, Miss Diana, or in this case Judge Roberts, who throws down a new note that reminds the girls or in this case the boys that she/he is still in charge.

Supreme Court: Juveniles sentenced to life have option for new reviews
 By Robert Barnes
The Washington Post
 January 25 2016

 The Supreme Court ruled Monday that those sentenced as teenagers to life imprisonment for murder must have a chance to argue that they be released from prison. The court said its 2012 decision that struck down mandatory life imprisonment terms without parole for juveniles must be applied retroactively.

That would mean new sentencing or a chance to argue for parole, said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote the 6-to-3 decision. The decision continues the trend of the court in deciding that juveniles convicted of even the most heinous crimes must be treated differently than adults. It has also ruled out capital punishment for juveniles.

 The case was brought by Henry Montgomery, who as a 17-year-old in 1963 shot and killed Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Hurt. Montgomery is now 69 and says his rehabilitation in prison should make him eligible to be considered for parole. The Louisiana Supreme Court rejected his claim.

 “Prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored,” Kennedy wrote.

 Kennedy said that the court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama recognized that a judge “might encounter the rare juvenile offender who exhibits such irretrievable depravity that rehabilitation is impossible and life without parole is justified.” But he said its lesson was that “children’s diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change” forbid mandatory sentences, and that this “harshest possible penalty will be uncommon.”

 Many states that had allowed life imprisonment without parole for juvenile offenders had already agreed that those sentenced under the old codes could have their sentences reviewed. But seven, including Louisiana, had said the court’s ruling was not retroactive. Kennedy said the Miller ruling was a substantive change in the law that must be applied to earlier sentences. He said the offender need not be resentenced; he could simply receive a parole hearing.

 “Extending parole eligibility to juvenile offenders does not impose an onerous burden on the states, nor does it disturb the finality of state convictions,” Kennedy wrote. “Those prisoners who have shown an inability to reform will continue to serve life sentences. The opportunity for release will be afforded to those who demonstrate the truth of Miller’s central intuition — that children who commit even heinous crimes are capable of change.”

 Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, saying the decision was “nothing short of astonishing.”  He said the decision about Montgomery’s fate was Louisiana’s to make, and the court’s ruling was simply a power play by the majority to get rid of life imprisonment without parole for even the most depraved juveniles.

 “In Godfather fashion, the majority makes state legislatures an offer they can’t refuse: Avoid all the utterly impossible nonsense we have prescribed by simply ‘permitting juvenile homicide offenders to be considered for parole,’” Scalia wrote. “Mission accomplished.” Scalia was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

 The case is Montgomery v. Louisiana.

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