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May 26, 2006

Short fun to start a long weekend

As I expected and feared, the short sentence for the short person in Nebraska is already getting a lot of (too much?) attention (see here and here).  Here's the lastest from the AP:

A judge's decision to sentence a 5-foot-1 man to probation instead of prison for sexually assaulting a child has angered crime victim advocates who say the punishment sends the wrong message.  But supporters of short people say it's about time someone recognizes the unique challenges they face.

Rather than try to turn this case into a teaching moment, I thought I would invite everyone to make it a funny moment.  Through crime and punishment are no laughing matter, sometimes we all need to lighten up.  So, I'll get us started on possible headlines and jokes about this case, while encouraging others to use the comments to chime in:

Possible song title for the case: "Short people got no prison"

Possible movie title for the case: "Honey, I shrunk the sentence" or "Get Shorty (on probation)"

Possible starts for jokes:  "Did you hear Lay and Skilling are looking into getting their shins removed?"

May 26, 2006 at 01:35 PM | Permalink


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I'll pass, thanks. While I agree we need to lighten up on occasion, release of a predator to rape more children is not the occasion. No doubt this man does need to be protected from other prisoners (something our prisons in general need to do much better), but exempting him from incarceration altogether is abhorrent.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | May 26, 2006 2:04:24 PM

Oh, Kent, you are such a buzz kill.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 26, 2006 3:01:43 PM

I am going to hedge a bit to insure that I am not a buzz kill and simultaneously that I don’t offend--I was always taught not to short-side myself (it makes for a difficult up-and-down).

First, is it really appropriate for the judge to speculate on or predict the fate of a particular offender in prison and subsequently base a sentencing decision on such an unfounded assessment? How does the judge know the offender will have a short-lease on life behind bars?

Second, the decision appears unquestionably arbitrary. What is the demarcation point? Do the shortcomings of a 5’3” offender “warrant” disparity or is 5’1” the magic number? I can’t help but think that someone is getting shortchanged in this equation.

Third, the AP story states: “But supporters of short people say it's about time someone recognizes the unique challenges they face.” I wouldn’t think this is the type of recognition that anyone looks for. If so, they are certainly selling themselves short.

Finally, perhaps his sentence, although disparate, wasn’t really disproportionate to his height afterall.

Posted by: Shawn Davisson | May 26, 2006 3:48:47 PM

"That's Beaumont. A employee I had to let go. He put hisself in a position where he was going to have to do ten years in prison."

Jackie Brown

Kent, we are just blowing off some steam, but thanks for the restatement of the obvious.

Posted by: Stanley Feldman | May 26, 2006 3:50:18 PM

Shawn, it is appropriate for the court to consider possible abuse in prison; so says the Supreme Court. See Koon v. U.S., 518 US 81. Of course, those were poor police officers who did nothing more than beat the living daylights out of Rodney King, so I suppose that's different.

Posted by: David Lewis | May 26, 2006 5:26:15 PM

I think this is a pretty harsh indictment of that state’s prison system that a judge concludes that anyone under a certain height will be brutalized.

Posted by: S.cotus | May 26, 2006 5:44:57 PM

David, your supposition that the Koon case is different would actually be correct, however sarcastic your intentions--apples and oranges really. Further, my use of the term "appropriate" was not in reference to legal conformance but rather normative judgment. Simply because a SCOTUS majority believes a sentencing factor may be "appropriate" doesn't make it necessarily so, from either a policy or normative standpoint.

In all seriousness, what is with the "shortage" of jokes today?

Posted by: Shawn Davisson | May 26, 2006 6:15:21 PM

This blog is not usually a jokey one, so the choice of case sticks out like a sore thumb. To put it another way, I don't see invitations to joke in either of the Lay/Skilling/Enron posts which sandwich this one. Either could easily serve as a place to "lighten up" as well, if by lighten up, DB means to do so on the general subject of sentencing. But if DB is referring to "lightening up" on the specific case of a child sexual offender escaping prison time because the judge let him off, then obviously the reason people are not joking along is because they are too disgusted to do so.

Posted by: Taliesin | May 26, 2006 6:41:40 PM

My, we certainly are a serious bunch.

Taliesin should note that I slipped in a Lay/Skilling joke in this post, and I'd be happy to josh about that case and others, too. But joking about the short guy case seem especialy appropriate because, as the Koon discussion highlights, the issue of prison abuse has long been a concern at sentencing. This case is making headline only because the sentencing judge was so transparent and clear in her reasoning and it is interesting to explore shortness as a "disability."

In any event, anyone upset should accept my apologies for my unsuccessful effort to have a little fun at the end of a busy week.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 26, 2006 7:56:10 PM

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