Laxness in Sentencing . . . Public Concern - The Missourian: Opinion

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Laxness in Sentencing . . . Public Concern

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Posted: Saturday, June 21, 2014 6:00 pm

From comments heard, generally, the public does not understand the laxness in sentencing in our judicial system, especially when it comes to habitual offenders. Plea bargaining is another aspect of the judicial system for which there is concern.

What really drew comments was the revelation that a 56-year-old St. Louis County man with six drunken driving convictions and about 150 traffic-related arrests was sentenced to just five years in prison for a 2012 crash that killed a 4-year-old boy and injured his 10-year-old brother.

The victims’ mother asked the question other people have, “Why is he so privileged?” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Ricky R. Weeden’s sentence on an involuntary manslaughter, fleeing the scene of an accident and driving with a revoked license charges. He had been charged with second-degree murder and assault. Prosecutors agreed to a lesser charge because they said there were problems building a case against him. What? Problems? With this man’s criminal background? He was involved in an accident in 1983 that killed two people.

Yes, we know, we don’t understand the process!

The man had 11 DWI arrests and served fewer than two years in prison. The man is a menace to society and to give a five-year sentence and credit for time served, 20 months, in the St. Louis County jail doesn’t make any sense of righteousness. He probably will be out in a couple of years and will pose a threat to society again.

It’s commonly known that prosecutors want to file charges that they believe they have a good chance for a conviction. They don’t want to deal with charges that may be difficult to prove. It’s been that way probably forever. So a deal is cut with defense attorneys, and the judge usually goes along with it.

Are judges too cozy with some defense attorneys? Buddies?

We know prosecutors often are not pleased with sentences assessed by judges. We’ve heard complaints from them, going back many years.

Judges do have to make many tough decisions. One judge once told us, “I’m not God. I do the best I can depending on the circumstances.”

Our judicial system is flawed and some of the participants should be held more accountable. Too often judges run for re-election and are unopposed.

It is clear the public wants tougher sentences, especially for habitual offenders. The case in St. Louis County has angered many people. It is revolting.

Accountability also is lacking in all branches of our government, on all levels. Elections do allow voters to remove the inept. But, when an inept officeholder is unopposed in seekng re-election, the voter’s opportunity is lost.

The general public is not happy when criminals beat the system with the help of those involved in the process. If those participants in the system don’t recognize that, they have their minds mired in a landfill.

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