Thursday, July 26, 2007

Abuse of Discretion

If you want to understand sentencing guidelines, "three strikes" laws, mandatory minimums, etc., you need look no farther than two cases in Maryland.

First, in Baltimore County a couple of geniuses broke into Victory Villa Elementary School and poured an industrial strength drain cleaner on a playground slide and used a paint brush to spread the substance on handlebars, etc. of other playground equipment. Three year old Payton Potochney suffered second and third degree burns on his legs and back and has undergone skin grafts to repair the damage. Circuit Court Judge Mickey J. Norman ordered that the two cretins, aged 16 and 17, be tried as juveniles for scarring a three year old child for life.

Second, in Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Katherine D. Savage dismissed the case against a man accused of repeatedly raping a 7-year-old relative because his right to a speedy trial was violated. That the violation was largely the making of his own attorney didn't seem to matter very much and that the grounds for the violation (the inability to find an interpreter when the defendant had graduated from high school and attended community college in Montgomery County) was to ridiculous to be believed.

For every bleat about the lack of judicial discretion there are a half dozen stories of addlepated judges ruling against reason and the good of society that has caused legislators to strip that discretion from them.

4 comments:

Proverbs8_13 said...

"there are a half dozen stories of addlepated judges ruling against reason and the good of society"

Out of hundreds of thousands of cases daily. Pretty good ratio. Judges have quite a lot of education, experience, and go through a rigorous selection process.

So what law school did you graduate from that you think you can second guess these cases?

streiff said...

I've always been a big believer in reading comprehension. I've found it to be a great way to prevent tragic self-beclownings.

I'm also of the opinion that dowdifying a quote to the author is a sure way of making an ass of one's self. The exact quote reads:

For every bleat about the lack of judicial discretion there are a half dozen stories of addlepated judges ruling against reason and the good of society that has caused legislators to strip that discretion from them.

What junior high did you go to? Your English teacher needs to be fired.

Bruce Godfrey said...

I am definitely to the left of streiff here but my own view is more nuanced about one of the cases, while I am pretty much with streiff about the other.

Re: the playground, there is information suggesting that the teenagers may well have had no idea that they were engaged in a potentially lethal activity. They did not work at the facility and did not appear to have actual of the chemicals. By appearances, it was a stupid prank that went horribly wrong, the sort of thing that juvenile court exists to address. The presumption is generally against waiver up to adult court in Maryland, and this looks like a prank.

Mind you, I have two toddlers who went on a Baltimore County playground sliding board just yesterday. But I get Judge Norman in this case. Had the barrels been marked "hydrochloric acid" or the like, I would go the other way, but my information is that the barrels were unmarked and not obviously caustic.

I am more with you on the sex offense defendant in Montgomery. Montgomery County has an excellent secondary and community college network; someone who cannot handle English well enough to communicate with his attorneys has no business holding a diploma from a county high school, let alone passing grades from classes taught in English in MC. Probably the prosecution should be blamed for filing to prove (or perform) properly its good faith diligence, which allows the Hicks 180-day window to be extended for good cause shown.

Blaze LaFlame said...

re the Payton Potochney incident: the acid was under lock and key and the juveniles in question had to break down the door to get the acid. They did not hurt themselves in the process of putting acid over all the playground's equipment. I'm supposed to believe two kids who didn't know what they were doing somehow managed not to pour the acid on themselves or each other? Give me a break.
For the interest of full disclosure, I am Payton's great-aunt. This kid will never be able to wear shorts. will have to have numerous operations as he grows and has suffered a great deal of pain along with his family. At the very least, the parents of these kids should be held responsible finacially for the lifelong damage they have caused.

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