Is Justice Blind or Just Plain Dumb?

May 15, 2008 

Prosecutorial discretion and sentencing discretion are both flawed policies for dealing with repeat violent offenders. 

Allowing prosecutors “discretion” in choosing the charge they feel “comfortable” prosecuting for repeat violent offenders makes about as much sense as allowing a salesperson to decide a sales’ quota necessary for a bonus. 

Allowing judges “discretion” in sentencing repeat violent offenders without statutorily imposed mandatory terms is like guessing which way the wind will blow. 

A prospective repeat felon might as well spin a roulette wheel rather than take a guess at what the consequences will be for committing a crime. 

And nowhere in the nation is that more true than in Connecticut. 

After two deadly home invasions were committed by paroled/probated repeat offenders in less than a year, Connecticut citizens, and their Governor, demanded a mandatory “three strikes” law be enacted by the legislature. The liberals controlling Connecticut politics weren’t listening.

In fact, after several versions of a “three strikes” law were proposed and killed in Democrat controlled committees, a watered-down version was finally passed.  The Democrats insistence on tying public safety to hiring another $10 million worth of state workers led to the passage of a bill with increased minimum and maximum sentences.   

At least now, some of the state’s wimpiest judges have to give increased minimum sentences to persistent violent offenders...if the lazier members of the prosecutors’ office don’t make the unilateral decision to plead the charges down and call it a long weekend.  How do you spell “the easy way out”? 

Let’s take a quick look at the roulette wheel of justice in Connecticut. 

On May 2, Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Clifford sentenced Ernest C. Garlington to 33 years in prison for ordering the attempted murder (Assault in the first degree: Class B felony) of Derek Hopson, husband of Flora Allen-Hopson (basketball star Ray Allen’s mother).  Garlington is married to Darlene Powell-Garlington, Hopson’s ex-wife. 

Garlington hired people to murder Hopson on two separate occasions.  Both attempts failed and Garlington got 33 years while the person who actually took a shot at Hopson on the second attempt, Robbie Santos, was sentenced to 18 years. 

Judge Clifford gave Garlington 33 years under the statutory requirement that, “Assault in the first degree is a class B felony (and) any person found guilty under subdivision (1) of subsection (a) shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of which five years of the sentence imposed may not be suspended or reduced by the court.”  Oh boy...I’m scared. 

On the same day, May 2, a person who actually killed someone while committing a separate violent felony was sentenced in another Connecticut courtroom by a different judge to 20 years...suspended after 12 years. 

That’s correct, Trevon Stringer who was recklessly driving the getaway car from a murder rammed the car of 24-year-old Latywania Mundle and killed her (murdered her?). 

Stringer was the getaway driver for Ricardo Mackwho had just shot and killed Chaz Booth in a nearby pizza restaurant.  Latywania Mundle was just an innocent young lady who happened to be at the wrong intersection at the wrong time. 

For killing Ms. Mundle as the result of being an accessory to another murder, Stringer will do, at most, 12 years in prison. 

The prosecutor in the Stringer case brought charges under “Sec. 53a-55, Manslaughter in the first degree: Class B felony” of the Connecticut general statutes.  Note that this is a Manslaughter charge...not an Assault charge.  

Yet when Judge David Gold sentenced Stinger, who had actually killed someone in the process of helping his friend murder another person...Stringer got 12 years as opposed to the 33 years Judge Clifford gave to Garlington who never was actually responsible for anyone being killed. 

Go figure. 

Prosecutors can, and should, be required to bring the most severe charges that a crime warrants by something as simple as an executive departmental memo. 

Judges can, and should, be required to levy mandatory sentences that bring the most severe of deterrent consequences to the offender...not to mention some real justice to the victim and society. 

Despite the erroneous opinion of Democrat state Rep. Toni Walker of New Haven (who should try reading the Constitution before trying to govern) that “judges are the ones who should make changes to the judicial system,” it is constitutionally mandated that the people, through their elected representatives, make the laws and the judges interpret them.  One this point, crime-enabling legislators should stop kicking the can down the road. 

And speaking of enablers...   

In the opposition to mandatory sentencing, the Hartford Courant held the position that, “We pay and train judges to use their judgment. There is no better way to achieve justice.” 

The trouble is that you don’t always get what you pay for and the law-abiding public deserves better.


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