I hate mandatory minimums, as I believe it restricts the ability of judges to make appropriate sentencing decisions, and in the case of drug laws, sends non-violent offenders to prison for excessive and cruel lengths. However, when I read things like this, it just makes me shake my head:
Our Hall of Shame Award today goes to Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan.
TChris wrote yesterday about Philadelphia public defender Fred Goodman who got decked by his client in front of the jury during a murder and rape trial which might bring the death penalty. It was inevitable that the Judge would allow Mr. Goodman to resign after the punch. It also should have been inevitable that a mistrial be declared–Mr. Goodman shouldn’t have to continue the trial, and, after all, the jury saw what happened too.
But no, the Judge in the case tried to force Mr. Goodman’s associate counsel, Andrea Konow, to continue by herself. She refused. Now she’s in jail. The Judge says she’s staying there until she changes her mind and resumes representing the client.
Go read the rest of this apalling story, and if you dont already, you should make Talk Left a daily read.
Some of you are probably wondering why I always sound like such a softy on matters of crime and punishment, so I will digress for a moment. As far as I am concerned, government is simply an institution which should not be trusted. The most powerful things the government can do are to execute a citizen, imprison a citizen, send a citizen to war, confiscate the property of a citizen, and tax a citizen. All of those powers have the ability to destroy the citizen.
Having worked briefly in the criinal justice system (interned in the probation office for 6 months, then spent 6 moths as a PO while one officer was ill), I can assure you, without exageration, that the deck is stacked against the poor, the unintelligent, and those of minority status when it comes to matters of criminal justice, with financial status and the ability to hire good legal representation the most damning of the three. I don’t think anyone even debates this issue anymore, it is so clearly and undeniably true.
Therefore, I find it sickening that a judge would behave this way with a public defender- someone who herself is probably radically underpaid, working for a client who probably doesn’t have a chance in hell in the courtroom anyway for a variety of reasons.