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November 3, 2004

Judge Panner sentences in Detwiler

As readers may recall, early last month Senior US District Judge Owen M. Panner declared the federal sentencing guidelines unconstitutional in US v. Detwiler, 2004 WL 2244532 (D. Or. Oct. 5, 2004). Judge Panner's holding was especially noteworthy because it was not based on Blakely, but rather on the conclusion that the "practical consequences of the Feeney Amendment is that, regardless of what it may say on the office door, the Sentencing Commission is now a captive of the Executive Branch." According to Judge Panner, this fact made the federal sentencing system unconstitutional on separation of powers grounds. (More background on the case can be found here, with commentary here and here, and a subsequent development here.)

With thanks to a wonderful reader for the tip, I now see from this article in The Oregonian that Judge Panner has imposed a sentence on defendant Detwiler. Here are interesting excerpts from the newspaper's report on the sentencing:

In his [prior] decision, Panner said he would consider the sentencing guidelines advisory, "not binding mandates." On Monday, Panner used a federal sentencing statute, first enacted in 1984, as the basis for his sentence. That statute allows federal judges to use discretion in handing down sentences, and permits them to consider a range of factors such as the history and character of the defendant and the nature of the offense.

Panner said he believed Detwiler, who has no criminal record, would not commit a similar crime again, and he said he felt the punishment the man has experienced in the form of public humiliation has been severe. Panner said Detwiler's case is unique and is an example of why federal judges don't like federal sentencing rules.

"I do not believe it is appropriate to sentence him to a range of 33 to 41 months," Panner said, disregarding the existing sentencing rules. But, in handing down the 18-month sentence, the judge said the offense deserves punishment.

Detwiler engaged in sexually explicit online chats with someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl before arranging to meet her for sex. The girl turned out to be a federal agent, and Detwiler was arrested after arriving at a downtown MAX station to meet the girl. Authorities say the two chatted online for more than six months.

Detwiler on Monday called his conduct wrong and inappropriate. He said he's been in counseling, which has helped him understand the implication of his actions. "I stand before you now sickened that I said what I did and did what I did," he said, as his family sat behind him in the courtroom.

November 3, 2004 at 02:29 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Yea, I'm sure he's really sick about what he did. He's just playing the game right.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 3, 2004 3:34:01 PM

Playing the game right? God forbid a Defendant expresses remorse. Good for the Judge. God bless him. He saw the evidence and ruled with wisdom and compassion, with no fear of Ashcroft's full blown congressional hearings for those that defy his edicts. This world needs more Judges just like him who aren't afraid to do the job they were actually appointed to do. And not listen to comments from the peanut gallery from those who only know 5 paragraphs they read online somewhere. Yes Joe, I'm speaking to you.

Posted by: bob | Nov 3, 2004 4:50:17 PM

bob,

Do you have first hand knowledge of what the evidence is? If not, your comment is as worthless as Joe's. Most all defendant's express remorse when they think it matters. I have interviewed defendant's who cry in court then 15 minutes later say they are innocent to something they just pled guilty to. Many say in court they have also found religion.

Posted by: steve | Nov 3, 2004 11:21:02 PM

You're correct Steve. I have no information about the evidence, not that it matters since he's admitting his guilt. What I was applauding was the Judge's courage, so lacking in many (not all) of today's crop of federal judges. He was appointed, FOR LIFE, for what were hopefully very good reasons.

He should not cowtow to hysterical lynchmobs, nor opportunistic prosecutors, nor rich and powerful defendants. He doesn't have to worry about reelection so he can rule in a wise and thoughtful manner, including consideration of a range of factors such as the history and character of the defendant and the nature of the offense (which was, by the way, "traveling with intent", godhelpusall).


As to pleading guilty then declaring innocence, I can give you a list that would choke a horse of men in Texas and other states who pled guilty to murder and sentenced to prison because their only other choice was to roll the dice against the electric chair. Like anyone else (including defense attorneys), many Prosecutors are honorable people, some are not. Prosecutors have a lot of power, whether you're guilty or not.

And I never said Joe's comment was worthless. I was applauding a courageous man who fulfilled hia oath of office and will now undoubtedly face some sort of disciplinary hearing thanks to our Justice Department. He alone heard all of the evidence and the defendant's remorse and considered it in his ruling, uninterrupted by draconian violations of separation of powers. He did his job. Everyone is free to agree or disagree.

I could never even pretend to know what's in someone's heart, whether it's remorse, or whether it's fear/love of god. But I certainly wouldn't judge it based on how elequantly a defendant speaks in front of a Federal Judge and every media outlet from 100 miles around crowded into a courtroom. It's an extremely intimidating position, and every single defense attorney out there will say that if you're going to express remorse, say it and get out. The less said by the guilty defendant the better, which rarely gives a defendant to any meaningful opportunity to properly convey in his own words his remorse, religious conversion, restitution, whatever.

As I stated, I could never pretend to know what's in someone's heart. And I would never say "Yea, I'm sure he's really sick about what he did. He's just playing the game right" after reading a weblog or a newspaper article. But if we are to have any faith in our system at all, it starts with trusting the Judge's ability to independently assess a case and its penalty. Because if we can't do that, we might as well just call John Ashcroft and ask him his opinion. And build more prisons. Lots and lots of prisons.

Posted by: bob | Nov 4, 2004 2:23:19 AM

Bob,

I'm gathering from your response that you were, or are, a defense attorney. It has been my experience over the years that the defense bar in this country is inclined to paint federal judges as courageous on those occasions, and only on those occasions, that they make a finding that is contrary to the federal guidelines in general, or departs downward from the prescribed guideline range. Otherwise, they're just wrong.

I, like you, know only the details of the defendant's case as presented in this blog. I also don't know the exact bases on which the court departed. The departure may have been perfectly appropriate. On the other hand, given that the defendant was about to have sex with what he believed to be a 14 year old girl, whom he spent 6 months seducing over the internet, it appears arguable that a downward departure may not have been appropriate.

My question to you, Bob, is the judge courageous merely because of the downward departure, regardless of the reason, or because it objectively had merit? I fear it's the former.

Posted by: Jerry | Nov 4, 2004 9:29:51 AM

Actually I more biased than that. I'm the son of a former Federal Judge. I'm not a defense attorney, prosecutor, nor a slightly biased investigator compiling a Presentencing Report. Just a well informed civilian, and that's probably the greatest threat imaginable to the Guidelines. I'm a auto mechanic by trade. I didn't catch your, Steve's or Joe's occupation.

For the record, and I'll repeat it again, I believe the Judge to be courageous simply because he exercised independent thought, an occurance I pray will increase. I would applaud him whether the sentence was more than or less than what our esteemed "guidelines" suggest/mandate/ or dictate. But it doesn't appear that he departed from the guidelines, since he didn't use them at all. He used the evidence and testimony before him and ruled. John Ashcroft and his threats be damned. That's why he is courageous. And anytime a Judge would risk his career to buck the system in order to deliver a sentence to any Defendant, it objectively has merit. He knows the case better than anyone. Either let the man do his job or else call Ashcroft. There's no reason to pay both their six-figure salaries.

And notice I never said I agreed with his sentence, just that he was courageous. Neither I nor you have enough information to intelligently agree or disagree with his ruling. And so, I reserve judgement to the man whom the House, the Senate and our President saw fit to appoint for life. Unlike you, I have no informed opinion on whether "it appears arguable that a downward departure may not have been appropriate", (not wasting my time with things that "appear aguable")or whether it was indeed appropriate. And I will not attempt to offer one. Others undoubtedly will. Some will be extremely knowledgable, others....eh...not so much. But that's what's great about our country. We have the right to be as wrong as we want to be. Judges do not have that luxury, not if they have practiced law for so long and have still kept their soul.

That's why we need independent Judges. We don't have them now, but we could. But as it is, as is the law, we have a low level government employee in probation and parole who was not elected by the people nor appointed by the Judge, who, after listening to biased interviews and undefended hearsay pretty much declares, in collusion with the prosecutor, what a defendant's sentence will be. A lesser Judge would have turned a blind eye to justice and rationalized away his inaction and dependence on the governement paycheck, rubber stamping the PSI. And THAT'S why Blakely, Booker and Fanfan reached the SCOTUS.

But just to stir the pot a little, let's be clear about this. In all actuality, the Defendant was NOT "about to have sex with what he believed to be a 14 year old girl". He wasn't about to have sex with anyone. It was all a physical and legal impossibility. This was a thought crime for which the Judge believed the Defendant had sufferred appropriately. Agree or disagree, but arguing simply because an issue "appears arguable" seems like a waste of time and alot of mental masturbation to me.

I would not be so bold as to ignorantly declare the Defendant a liar, "just playing the game right" or the Judge wrong, without a full review of all pertinent facts. Because it's not a game, althought prosecutors and defense bar attempt to make it one, with winners and losers. What was once strictly about guilt or innocence has become a bastardized gamble of risk and consequence. Plead guilty and be sentenced to 5 years. Be found guilty and be sentenced to 20. No one should suffer so horridly because they chose to force the government to do what they are paid for and prove every element of their case, as is their duty.

Posted by: bob | Nov 4, 2004 12:56:54 PM

Bob,

OK. You're certainly entitled to your opinion. One last comment and then I need to get back to my dog walking business.

Classifying the offense as a "thought crime" grossly understates the serious nature of that offense.

Posted by: Jerry | Nov 4, 2004 2:27:06 PM

For your information, while not elected, federal probation officers are appointed by the Chief Federal Judge in the District they serve. As far as being low level employess, those individuals make decisions on a daily basis that effect both public safety and rehibilitation of a defendant/offender. They also interpret and provide guidance to the Courts regarding the very complicated guideline sentencing process currently in place. They do a very good job with regard to this and know more about the guidelines than the majority of prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges. Most officers have masters degrees and many JDs. The also receive extensive ongoing training relating to all areas of their work. A federal probation officer can only be removed from their position by the Chief Federal Judge who as you know was appointed by the president. I guess that makes them low level goverment ditch diggers.

Posted by: steve | Nov 4, 2004 3:59:48 PM

Thanks Steve, I honestly had no idea every one of you guys were as educated and qualified as you state. You must be right then, my opinion on the Judge's courage must be totally worthless, just Joe's "Yea". Dad retired in the early 80's and probation officers had a much different role then, as did Judges themselves. It seems much more administrative now.

I noticed you stated before that people in court often find religion. As much is true of a person in any battle arena or foxhole, like our fine men and women overseas, as well as their foes. And I can tell you from personal experience, it doesn't matter if you're on the winning side or not. There's a higher power out there, and many find him through a variety of life's challenges. I personally couldn't question a person's devotion to finding a god when he needed him most, only encourage it. Is questioning someone's faith something you always comment on in a PSI?

But what I really would like to know is how you feel personally about the guidelines, and does it ever come into play in your recommendation? Are they a good/bad thing? Do you feel that the arguments behind Booker/Fanfan by the defense have any legitimacy. Have you ever experienced a case that you felt the guidelines punished too harshly or not harsh enough? How do you feel about Judges who decide a sentence without the aid of your guideline calculations? I think that could be educational for all of us.

And don't knock ditch digging; it's honest work, too.

Posted by: bob | Nov 4, 2004 5:10:43 PM

Bob:

A persons religious preference is not reflected in the psr. My comment was only meant to mean that when the heat is on many defendants will just say at sentencing what they think the judge wants to hear. Remember, many times the people that end up in federal court for sentencing hearings have made a living out of being dishonest.

As far as the guidelines, for the most part I think they are a good thing. They were meant to eliminate disparity in sentencing and I think for the most part they have accomplished that, expecially compared to the indeterminate sentencing scheme your dad was involved with back in the 80's. Back then, sentences for the same crimes varied greatly depending on what judge the defendant drew. It happened all the time where I work. Go up to third floor and get 10 years go to first floor and get probation for same offense. Remember judges are human too and their sentencing decisions can vary greatly depending on their background, experiences and even political affiliation.

Most of the time what can greatly increase a sentence is not the guidelines but statutory minimums and statutory minimums that require consecutive sentences. Judges cannot sentence below a statutory minimum except under one circumstance. That would involve a substantial assistance motion filed by the Government. The Government has total control over whether such a motion is filed and a judge cannot compel the filing of such a motion. Further, the Government totally controls what to charge the defendant with and at their discretion can stack on counts that require consecutive sentences.

There are times when I have felt that the guidelines were both to high or to low based on the background of the defendant and the crime(s) of conviction. In those cases, we look for ways to depart. This is one thing I wish the guidelines/case law made a little easier. For instance in this circuit its fairly easy to identify grounds for departure from the guidelines but what makes departing hard is that case law dictates the extent of departure must be determined by a reasonable methodology hitched to the sentencing guidelines. How do you hitch family ties/community ties to a point system like the guidelines are driven by??? Do you get a point off for every child or friend you have??? It's basically impossible.

Many of the defense bar where I work do not want the guidelines completly thrown out the window. They might just want the system tweaked a little. As it is now, it is much easier for them to advise a defendant on whether to plead or go to trial because they have a pretty good idea about what sentence their client will receive. Without the guidelines a defense attorney can only hope his client receives a certain sentence. They are totally at the mercy of the judge. They might advise their client to plead but go into court and depending on the judge get three times what they hoped. This is terrifying to some defense attorneys. Under the guidelines this situation is extremely rare because for the most part they have a good idea about what they are facing.

As far as Booker/Fanfan, it is just confusing to me. It seems like the guidelines have now been turned into statutes. That is not how the current system was set up to work. The guidelines adjusted the sentence within the statutory range set by Congress. Guidelines and statutes are different things. Even before the guidelines Judges could sentence anywhere within the statute. They could just choose where they wanted to sentence with no review by a higher court available. Now they must at least have a reason why they chose the specific sentence in the statutory range and if the government or defense disagrees it can be appealed to a higher court. Having a jury determine every enhancement sounds good in theory but in reality will be impossible. Not so hard if you have the jury already here. However, what about all the enhancments in the 97% of cases that plead guilty. Do you have to call a jury in for all those sentencing hearings that involve an enhancement. Take to much time and money and overburden an already overworked federal judicial system. If you just let the parties stipulate to certain things we are back to disparity. However, this time the disparity will be caused by the government and defense and not judges. Different prosecutors/Defense attorneys will stipulate to different things based on their workload, background and even location. A system with advisory guidelines will also lead to disparity. Many judges will just simply ignore them.

My fear is that if the guidelines are thrown out Congress will come back with a new sentencing scheme that leaves little or no discretion with regard to sentencing. This is even more likely given what happened in the recent election.

Posted by: steve | Nov 5, 2004 10:33:44 AM

Thank you Steve, for your insight, facts and opinions. I love this board!

Posted by: bob | Nov 5, 2004 1:18:56 PM

Steve- It surprises me that you point to the problem of disparity related to negotiations between govt and defense stipulations in the potential post-Blakely world and seem to think the current system largely eliminates disparity. The disparity is there believe me. Prosecutors get to pick and choose defendants and charges and there is ultimate disparity in that especially with conspiracy charges. Don't tell me that govt and defense atty personalities/work loads/location/quest for publicity doesn't factor into that. There will be further disparity in any system but just because in this system you can pretty well guess how ridiculous your sentence would be if you have the foolish notion to fight charges, it doesn't mean this system is worth saving. I don't know where you look currently to support a downward departure since you've admitted that the only downward departure available is a substantial assistance departure that is fully controlled by the govt.

I don't mean to jump on you but I think you have been on the inside of this system too long and are more comfortable with the known mess than how to deal with the possibility of an unknown future mess. I agree with Bob- we need more judges to stand up to Congress who is so removed from the individual case and whose decisions are about politics and not necessarily about what makes sense. I know of a retired federal judge who commented on the guidelines saying it wasn't about what is right but it was about the law. Stupid me, I thought one was created to support the other- never considered they should exist as two completely separate things.

Also- in case you weren't aware, defense attys know that being perceived as "accepting responsibility" will get you good marks with the judge so they coach their clients not to tell the judge or anyone with the court that they are innocent. That is a big No-No.. It isn't about what is right, it's about the law...

Posted by: Non-Lawyer | Nov 5, 2004 4:45:03 PM

By the way, for the record, these allegations are absolutely horrible. But when you plead guilty, the govt largely gets to write the story of what you did. So as others have said, we can't comment on whether the judge's sentence was just without more facts- facts that the judge certainly had.

Posted by: Non-Lawyer | Nov 5, 2004 5:01:06 PM

OK non-lawyer. The law is always the correct way of behaving. You or I may not agree with the law at the time but that is our problem. What is your solution??? You don't think I know defendants aren't coached. That was the whole point of my first post. I said it was somewhat difficult to depart downward. Didnt mention upward. Just as difficult. Same methodology applies. There are judges that would like to depart upward in some cases as well as downward. You think I have been in the system to long. You haven't been in it long enough. If you have it is probably because you have been an inmate.

Posted by: steve | Nov 5, 2004 11:04:38 PM

Oh by the way non-lawyer. There is a simple solution to all of this. Don't break the law or put yourself in a position to be drawn in via associates or otherwise. It's really not that hard to do.

Posted by: steve | Nov 5, 2004 11:39:43 PM

Personally, I'd like to hear a former inmate's opinion on the system. It has to be as equally credible and insightful as someone who actually derives a paycheck because of the system, and defined by some (not me, of course) as part of the problem. Both opinions I would consider biased. I would be interested in hearing about a former inmate's experience, from indictment, to guilty, to the human warehousing stage, coming out the other side into freedom again. Especially since he no longer has anything to gain. Do any former inmates read this page? If so, please let us know.

I've just been reading posts until now, but this country imprisons more per capita than any other nation on earth. And if you're speaking about just african americans, the figures are an abomination. No sensable person can deny this. A defendant pleads guilty to crime A, but is sentenced for Crimes B, C and D, without any evidence, without meaningful argument and presentation to a jury, and with plenty of hearsay

We tried to fix a problem and created the SG's. But other problems developed. Judges lost control in their courtroom, and JohnnyLaw in DC took over. Prosecutors now decide who goes to jail, and for how long. Didn't they just admit they had a 97% plea rate??????????

Let me say it again, a 97% plea rate???????

Just what in hell are Defendants being threatened with in order to achieve those kinds of numbers. It's not just the 2 points for acceptance of responsibility. And please don't tell me that it's because every one of them is guilty of every crime they are charged with. It's a statistical impossibility. That only the guilty are ever charged. The notion that the gov't only prosecutes the glaringly guilty flies in the face of the very reason the Constitution and Bill of Rights exist. Somehow, the response of someone involved in the system of "There is a simple solution to all of this. Don't break the law" is uncaring, nonresponsive, and ultimately unsatisfying

Because our founding fathers knew better. They knew even then that it's great political fodder to put people in prison. Crimes, guilt, right and wrong, innocence, evidence, civil rights. They don't matter. I'm protecting you, see? You're safe now. Vote for me. Or appoint me. To even question is unpatriotic and seditious. Drink the purple Kool-aid and be quiet.

Can we at least agree that the system is flawed and is fixable? I'm not saying it's better elsewhere, elsewhere is unimportant. Let's all get together and fix it. The number of gov't penal industry positions eliminated as a result will be a good thing, not bad. And don't kid yourself, in the past 15 years, it has become an industry. And get rid of the jaded ones, the one's so caught up in the power of their positions that they can't even see they are wrong, but are "just doing my job as instructed to the best of my ability". That argument didn't work in Nuremberg, and it shouldn't here.

I know the court system is filled with good people who are competant, intelligent and caring. But they're blindly following rules that are wrong and unconstitutional. And getting promoted. Most still deny there is even a problem. This is an inconsistency I still can't wrap my brain around. Can anyone explain?

Just had to get that out. I'll sit back now, be a good citizen, and drink my koolaid.

Posted by: horrified observer | Nov 6, 2004 1:19:14 AM

They try to charge only then ones they believe have committed a crime. So the 97% rate is possible. How many do you think the decline to file charges on.

Posted by: steve | Nov 6, 2004 9:58:00 AM

They try to only charge the ones they believe committed a crime, or is it that they only charge those they believe they can bully into a plea or they definitely believe they can twist evidence enough to get a conviction? The latter I think. Because if they charged only those whom they believe committed a crime, their stats wouldn't be what they are.

So, that settles it. It's not about justice, right vs wrong, and doing the right thing. It's about numbers, pure and simple, and making the prosecutor and Justice Dept. look good. State/county prosecutors don't have that luxury. Thanks for the candid admission though. I definitely feel safer now. I for one welcome our statistically perfect overlords. Mmmmmmm...good koolaid.

Posted by: horrified observer | Nov 6, 2004 2:14:40 PM

Wow Steve, you are very confident in your world. I guess to consider yourself a staunchly objective probation officer, you would have to be confident in the rightness of everything you do. It seems in your world- prosecutors are always right (hence the 97%plea rate-investigative geniuses certainly)- juries are always right except when they acquit (probably some pesky evidence rules got in the way or some witness got squeezed the other way) and appellate courts are just a waste of time and money since they're all guilty anyway. Gee- why bother with trials at all-oh yeah, that's right, 97% of the time they don't.

I am not an inmate but I've gotten to know a few- Some there for good reason and some not at all. There are some very decent people spending much of their lives there. Just follow the law? Some of them would say that is exactly what they thought they were doing- but what do they know- they're just a bunch of criminals. Heck, either they said so or a jury said so, therefore it must be true. I guess they should also stop releasing death row inmates on bad evidence and actual innocence because they wouldn't be there if they weren't guilty of something.

By the way, I didn't think the Feeney amendment applied to upward departures but given your position that downward departures and upward are just as difficult- I will review that again. Sleep well Steve-

Posted by: Non-Lawyer | Nov 8, 2004 12:55:33 AM

US vs. Detwiler is alarmingly close to my story. I am currently awaiting sentencing, and have been waiting since December of 2003. In brief, the facts laid out in US vs. Detwiler are identical to my case, except that the chat dialogues lasted over a period of 2 weeks (a few correspondences), and the 'girl'(cop) was 15 yrs old. In short, the Judge on my case sentenced me to 33 months, but 10 days later vacated my sentence. Naturally, the federal prosecutors (under direct mandate from Ashcroft) were forced to appeal the case. Even the prosecutors on my case admitted feeling badly about having to prosecute me after having examined my specific case. I can honestly say that my days leading up to and during sentencing were some of the hardest days I’ve ever had to face.

Now, nearly 12 months after my original sentencing, and nearly 17 months from the date of the crime, I gratefully wait under probationary terms for my pending doom. You wanted the opinion of an inmate. Well, although I am not one yet, I have spent nearly a month in jail when this all started, and knowing that the inevitable future is near for me, maybe my perspective will serve as some insight for a few of you.

Before my life changing mistake, I would categorize myself as a model citizen. I grew up going to and being involved with my church, I was a straight A student up until high school, I graduated in the top 10% in my class, and received an academic scholarship to attend Bucknell University. Four years after graduating High school, I graduated from Bucknell with a double major in Japanese and Psychology. I was fortunate enough to play soccer at the collegiate level (division I) for all four years. Post University, I took a job as a stockbroker in the DC metro area and quickly found my calling. Two and a half years later I moved to Colorado to work for my girlfriend’s father and start a new life for myself. What I am trying to say is that, out of all my friends, in fact, out of all the people in my life I have ever met, I would fall under the category of LEAST LIKELY to ever be in this type of situation. Now, I am a convicted Felon. I can NEVER work in a licensed profession for the rest of my life. I have lost the love of a woman I wanted to marry, and most importantly, I have hurt dozens of people whom I love.

When this all began, my biggest fear was that my case would be just another case file for a judge and the judicial system. But the judges’ act of vacating my sentence and ultimately sentencing me to three years probation has given me enormous respect and has begun to restore my hope in our judicial system. Naturally I am biased in feeling this way, but I honestly feel that every party involved in my case feels that I am not the typical criminal – the type of criminal that was meant to be given 33 to 41 months. In fact I was very fortunate to have been given a plea agreement that excluded a count that would have meant a minimum sentence of 72 months. Just 1 month before having been endicted, the Feeney Amendment was enacted, raising the mandatory minimum sentence to 5 years.

My anger and frustration stems from a couple of perspectives. If I had not crossed state boundaries, my case would not have been picked up by the federal government, and I would have been tried on a state level. My sentence would most likely have been 3 years probation and a misdemeanor. However, the act of having crossed state boundaries categorized my case as federal, and as we all know, sentencing is handled much differently at the federal level than it is at the state level. Why is it right that having committed the same crime but in a different part of the country justifies a difference in a sentence of 0 prison time to 5 years? My second frustration stems from the DOJ and people like Ashcroft who have virtually all the power to determine my fate. They don’t care about the individual case. They are looking for a neat and efficient system that will work most of the time, not all of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everybody in the DOJ or federal government is callous, ignorant, or naïve. In fact, my best friends’ father has been working at the DOJ for well over 20 years and he is one of the people that I respect the most in my life. My situation has caused him to question everything that he stands for and believes in about our justice system. The point I am trying to make is that a there is far too much power in the political system of our country. A politician wants to become re-elected, so he/she campaigns on harsher crimes for criminals. Most of the time, they have made mistakes in their past that could have warranted prison time for themselves. But those were different times, and the law allowed for people to make mistakes. Look at Bush. If he had actually had to serve prison time for his mistakes (drug use), he might feel differently about how our justice system seems to be operating.

Living a limited life is a tough way to live. At 26 years of age, not being able to apply for a ‘real job’ because I am a convicted felon and don’t know when I will be going off to prison, not being allowed to travel out of state, having to live at home with my parents, etc. make life very difficult for me. I’m not saying that I don’t deserve to be inconvenienced or punished. I just want to move on with my life. Why can’t I just do my time, and move on? In our country, paying our debt to society does not end after prison time; it follows you for the rest of your life. Now I will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of my life. Now I am a convicted felon, and I am considered to be a 2nd class citizen by all that do not know me personally. One mistake has caused a lifetime of pain. I have been wanting to do volunteer work for prison ministries and other organizations, but I can’t even do that. What is wrong with a judicial system that does not allow for extenuating circumstances or cases whereby a defense attorney, prosecutor, probation officer, pre-trial services officer, and judge all wish to give me a second chance, but can not?

Steve, I appreciate your comments. It restores hope for me to see that some people do not necessarily judge me before understanding all the facts.

Posted by: soon to be inmate | Nov 16, 2004 12:14:07 AM

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