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June 7, 2012

Could (and should) public disapproval impact sentencing appeal in Ravi case?

11140878-largeThe question in the title of this post is prompted by this local story headlined "Poll: More than half of N.J. residents find Dharun Ravi sentencing too lenient."  Here are excerpts:

Just over half of New Jersey residents believe the 30-day jail sentence given to Dharun Ravi for spying on his gay roommate was "not tough enough," according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll.  That view held consistent across the normal divides of politics, gender and race.

Another 39 percent found Ravi’s sentence of jail time plus probation, a fine and community service to be "the punishment he deserves," while just 7 percent called it "too tough."

"It suggests with all the discussion about bullying, people are taking this much more seriously than they did before — and that maybe the judge should’ve too," said poll director David Redlawsk.  The case — which triggered an impassioned national debate about bias laws, gay rights and sexual privacy in the internet era — was followed by an astonishing 97 percent of respondents....

The more people knew about the case, the more likely they were to say Ravi should have received a tougher sentence.  "Wow," said Stephen Russell, a University of Arizona expert in anti-gay bullying, when told of the results.  "It’s a bit of a surprise, because I might have imagined more people thinking the sentence was ‘too tough.’"...

The telephone poll of 1,191 adults was conducted May 31-June 4 just as Ravi apologized for his actions and surrendered to begin his jail term.  His apology was rejected by the parents of Tyler Clementi, the roommate who committed suicide shortly after learning Ravi had made his assignations with a male visitor the subject of dorm gossip.

Prosecutors are appealing the sentenced handed down by Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman, who deviated from state guidelines which mandated a lengthier prison term because he said he felt Ravi’s actions didn’t warrant going to prison with those convicted of murder, armed robbery and rape.

I am not sure if New Jersey sentencing law makes community sentiment a relevant consideration on appeal. I do know that, were this case in federal court, prosecutors could cite this poll as part of a claim that the short Ravi prison sentence was not sufficient "to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense" as required by 3553(a).

June 7, 2012 at 09:31 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman, who deviated from state guidelines which mandated a lengthier prison term because he said he felt Ravi’s actions didn’t warrant going to prison with those convicted of murder, armed robbery and rape."

Well gee, under that logic, we shouldn't sentence ANYONE who commits an offense that doesn't involve murder, armed robbery, or rape, because we wouldn't want those populations to intermix. Madoff would have loved this judge! If I were the prosecutors, this quote would be my lead argument as to why the sentence was procedurally flawed.

Also, I don't see what the surprise is here. Ravi was not a sympathetic defendant, which he compounded by not apologizing until well after sentencing. Plus, New Jersey is more sensitive to bullying people because they are gay than a lot of other states. Of course there's going to be an outrage over this ridiculous sentence.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Jun 7, 2012 12:31:14 PM

Looking at the opinion chart, the MAJORITY of people (56%) believe that the punishment was "just right" (punishment he deserves) or was TOO TOUGH. Meaning he should have gotten LESS. I think the headline is misleading---in that actually the MAJORITY of people thought the punishment WAS correct or would have given EVEN LESS!! Interesting how the headline is skewed to give the opposite view!

Posted by: folly | Jun 7, 2012 7:34:32 PM

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