« Pastor makes interesting pitch for preserving Racial Justice Act in North Carolina | Main | "Medicine and the Epidemic of Incarceration in the United States" »

June 11, 2011

Are severe mandatory minimums for certain gun crimes especially problematic after Heller?

The question in the title of this post is inspired by this Washington Times commentary from FAMM president Julie Stewart headlined " Second Amendment injustice Mandatory minimums for self-defense must end."  Here are excerpts:

In June 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm “and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”...   This [ruling] must ring awfully hollow to Orville Lee Wollard who, two years ago tomorrow was sentenced to two decades in a Florida prison for protecting his family with a firearm.

On a spring morning in 2008, Wollard got a panicked call from his wife.  The teenage boyfriend who had been beating up his 15-year old daughter was back at their house causing trouble.  Wollard rushed home and found the boy on the porch and his daughter with a black eye.  Wollard told the boy to leave, but instead, the boy attacked him, ripping out stitches from Wollard’s recent surgery, and then ran off with Wollard’s daughter.  When the two returned several hours later, the boyfriend began shoving Orville’s daughter around the Wollards’ home.  Wollard’s wife and eldest daughter screamed for him to do something. Wollard was frightened for his daughter’s and his family’s safety.

He grabbed his legally registered pistol and confronted the boy, again asking him to leave.  The boy stopped assaulting Wollard’s daughter.  He smiled, punched a hole in the wall, and began moving toward Wollard. Wollard, who had had firearms training as a former member of the auxiliary police force, aimed a bullet into the wall next to the boyfriend to scare him. No one was hurt, and the boy finally left.  That is where this story should have ended, but it didn’t. 

Several weeks later, the abusive boy called the police to report Wollard for aggravated assault, and Wollard was arrested.  Orville Wollard did not think he had committed a crime by protecting his family. He rejected a plea deal that would have given him probation and a felony record and instead took his case to court.  Prosecutors charged Wollard with various crimes, including shooting into a dwelling (his own house), child abuse (because the boy was under 18) and aggravated assault with a weapon.  A jury convicted Wollard of possessing and discharging a firearm, which triggered Florida’s mandatory minimum sentence for aggravated assault with a weapon.  Wollard was sentenced to the mandatory prison term of 20 years without parole.

At sentencing, the judge said, “This [sentence] is obviously excessive … if it weren’t for the mandatory minimum … I would use my discretion and impose some separate sentence, having taken into consideration the circumstances of the event.”  For his part, Wollard told the court, “I’m amazed. I’m stunned. I have spent my life pursuing education [and] helped the community. [T]hen one day this person breaks into my house … he continues to do this, he assaults my daughter, he threatens me, I protect myself.  [N]o one is injured in this whole thing, and I’m going to prison. … And again, with all respect to [the court], I would expect this from the former Soviet Union, not the United States.”

Wollard is right.... To be clear, a jury found Wollard guilty.  Jurors apparently did not believe he acted in self-defense..... Whether this jury reached the correct conclusion is open to debate.  Whether prosecutors should have charged a crime that carried such a harsh mandatory minimum sentence bears scrutiny.

What is beyond debate is that when judges are prevented from applying sentences that are appropriate to the unique circumstances of each case, injustice is inevitable.  And when the constitutional right to bear arms is at stake, violations of the bedrock tenet of American justice -- that the punishment should fit the crime and the offender -- are all the more intolerable.

June 11, 2011 at 11:17 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Are severe mandatory minimums for certain gun crimes especially problematic after Heller?:


I am amazed that this case hasn't made more news than it has. What were the prosecutors thinking??? How was justice served by putting this man in prison??

Posted by: anon2 | Jun 11, 2011 11:43:26 PM

Mandatory sentences for gun use have saved lives and reduced gun use in crime.

The source of this story is biased and is exploiting an unfortunate victim of feminist witch hunt of the productive male. The prosecutor has to be a feminist lawyer or a male running dog to call the events child abuse. It was abuse by the child, not of the child. Naturally, the boyfriend gets no charges pressed for punching out a girl, home invasion, and destroying property. As pure evil, he has the full courtesy and protection of the feminist lawyer.

The judge should just voided the verdict on fairness grounds, because it brings total contempt for the law by the public, or on policy grounds, to encourage home defense.

We do not know all the facts. The girlfriend may have needed a punch, as well, being super annoying. They were still together at the time of sentencing. The boyfriend wrote a letter begging for leniency, by the way. But the feminist will not deviate from the orthodoxy of the witch hunt of the productive male, and the destruction of the patriarchal family.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 11, 2011 11:45:05 PM

i think the jury and everyone else involved in this was retarded idiots!

as for him. he should have also used the gun of the little nazi's who showed up to get him!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 12, 2011 2:55:03 AM

i was taugh two t hings about guns!

first if you pull one you better be ready to use it!

second if you use it. SHOOT TO KILL!

i would not have been aiming at the wall!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 12, 2011 2:56:20 AM


Posted by: federalist | Jun 12, 2011 10:08:09 AM

He should have called the police first. It would have ended up with the kid in jail.

Posted by: Steve Dean | Jun 12, 2011 12:20:14 PM

I am a Concealed Carry License holder in the State of Florida, with a working knowledge of it's self defense statutes. Firing into the wall is what did him in. you are only allowed to fire in self defense, under imminent danger. By firing a warning shot, he was admitting that he didn't really believe himself in danger. This is settled law in this state. The jury had no choice but to convict.

Posted by: John Stephens | Jun 12, 2011 12:37:00 PM

Prosecutorial discretion should have ended this case, and executive clemency should correct it. This 15-year-old punk "victim" got exactly what he wanted. After terrorizing his teenage girlfriend and her family, it is the family who suffers more. I bet he sat and laughed upon the news of this conviction and sentence. What a travesty of justice.

I ask: is there a campaign for executive clemency/commutation?

Posted by: DEJ | Jun 12, 2011 12:58:13 PM

I think cases like this are ones worth contacting the governor about.

Posted by: David | Jun 12, 2011 4:06:55 PM

how true john!

but this statment just shows the CRIMINAL stupidity of the govt and the american people!

"By firing a warning shot, he was admitting that he didn't really believe himself in danger."

Might have also meant he was a nice guy who wanted to avoid the problem of killing the little arminal his daugher called a boyfriend!

so for being nice enough to try to NOT emotionally damage his daughter by killing her proble LOVER in front of her...he get's shafted!

like i said...any little nazi who said shit to me WOULD HAVE GOTTEN one RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 12, 2011 9:25:08 PM

We volunteer to join the military to help support this?

He should have offed the punk.
The persecutors(sic) ought to be in prison as should the punk.
Let us hope that the same incedent happens to the jurors with serious injuries.

Posted by: American Veteran | Jun 13, 2011 8:30:53 AM

The jury always has a choice. NULLIFICATION!

Posted by: jury | Jun 13, 2011 12:40:01 PM

Since when are firearms "legally registered" in Florida?

Poor posting is poor.

Posted by: Me | Jun 13, 2011 4:41:19 PM

think he's talking about a registered firearm as part of a concealed carry permit! in which your required to state WHAT weapon you will be using.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jun 14, 2011 12:04:52 PM

No. Florida does NOT require ANY weapon listing on the CCW permit.

Nor do they require any registration upon purchase.

Posted by: Me | Jun 14, 2011 12:09:27 PM

100% out before the budget showdown, and were 100% in stocks since before the market hit bottom. We won’t go back at least until this craziness is resolved.

Posted by: christian louboutin shoes | Jun 21, 2011 3:02:13 AM

WAIT A MINUTE - HE OWNED THE GUN LEGALLY, AND IT WAS FULLY REGISTERED, BUT HIS CHARGE OR CONVICTION WAS FOR "possessing and discharging a firearm" ? ? ? ? This does not fucking compute. It's legal to own it but not to posses it or discharge it in self defense ??? Yeah he should have killed that son of a bitch. But no good deed goes unpunished.

Where's the Governor? He can grant clemency and THEN they get get rid of these STUPID laws; that were made to force "thugs" into longer jail terms, but the thugs haven't stopped "possessing an discharging firearms" the ILLEGAL kind.

I'm serious SOMEBODY explain to me how this particular charge even applies? My brain hurts !! So the law is so vague it doesn't say "illegally" or "during the perpetration of a crime or attempted crime" 'does not apply in cases of self defenses and where the weapon is legally owned' ???? Who writes their laws?


Posted by: Bunny Olesen | Jun 24, 2011 9:01:23 PM

My question is now... who is the kid beating and manipulating now??? So the man who attempted to "fix it" is in jail... and this "kid" is scott free without so much as a 'slap on the wrist?" The police just ENABLED a criminal to keep doing his "bad deeds" until he possibly kills someone (if he hasn't already done so) He was violent, disrespectful and bullying and he's out there now doing the same thing to someone else (don't think he's not!) What I'd like to know is if the mother is protecting her daughter and if she has HER gun ready when the little punk pulls up into the yard... if some "dude" tried that with my daughter, as a mother of a 17 year old, and he played those stunts he'd have seen the "wrath of mommy". BTW... thankfully my daughter isn't like this man's daughter who kept going back to the skunk!!! The Dad should have made that clear from the beginning!
POLICE OFFICIALS.... DO YOUR DUTY!!!!!! If you need to keep the dad... fine... but go get that scoundrel of a kid.. get some testimony from mommy and daughter and get his hide of the streets!!! NOW!

Posted by: Jujub | Jul 24, 2011 9:46:06 PM

Someone mentioned because Wollard fired into the wall, the jury had "no choice" but to convict.

That is untrue. The jury has the supreme power. Problem is the courts do not properly instruct juries. A juror should instruct #1 according to their conscious, NOT "the letter of the law".

Thee assumption that the law is right is wrong. Jury trials exist to judge the LAW ITSELF, as being right and constitutional. That is why we have jury trials.

The judicial system in Florida is horribly corrupt. Prosecutors are the worst vermin in our system, preying on innocent families for the benefit of their careers.

I pray for the Wollard family.

Jury Nullification - Even the judge has no greater power than the jurors.

Of course, they don't want you to know that.

Posted by: JuryNullification | Dec 27, 2011 5:28:12 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB