Public Pressure Leads to Longer Sentence
Judge Edward Cashman caved to public pressure, increasing the sentence he imposed on a sex offender from 60 days to 3 to 10 years. Recognizing that society becomes more safe if we treat sex offenders, and that treatment in the community is more immediate, more readily available, and more effective than treatment behind bars, Judge Cashman initially imposed a sentence with that reality in mind. The subtleties of sentencing were lost on the "lock 'em up" crowd, who belittled Judge Cashman for his perceived leniency:
Ever since, he's been vilified by television commentators, bloggers and even the governor who say he was too light on the crime. ...
After Cashman announced the sentence, Gov. James Douglas called for the judge to resign and several lawmakers suggested he be impeached. On FOX News, Bill O'Reilly told viewers as video of Cashman rolled: "You may be looking at the worst judge in the USA."
Judges are supposed to rule without regard to public sentiment. Justice does not depend on opinion polls or on the views of Bill O'Reilly. Mark Kaplan, Hulett's lawyer, said it all:
"The sentence in this case may not be popular, but the court cannot be swayed by the media or the mob," he wrote in court papers.
The court was swayed, protections against double jeopardy notwithstanding.
Judge Cashman initially recognized his obligation to think independently.
In a Jan. 12 memorandum, Cashman appeared unswayed, writing: "To change my decision now, however, simply because of some negative sentiment, would be wrong."
Indeed. Judge Cashman had it right the first time. It's a sad day when a judge allows public pressure to dictate a sentence, and even sadder when a defendant's sentence is increased because politicians and blowhards like Bill O'Reilly haul out their tired "soft on crime" rhetoric.
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