Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sentencing Fail

Let me get this straight.

Michael Vick got 23 months in jail for dogfighting.

Plaxico Burress just got two years in prison for accidentally shooting himself.

Donte' Stallworth got 26 days in prison for killing someone while driving drunk.

Translation: Killing a dog is way worse than killing a human. But the worst thing you could do is do something stupid to hurt yourself.

What. The. Fuck.


Miguel said...

Actually what really burns me up is about the Burress situation is that while much has been made about the fact he shot himself, the "crime" he is being sentenced for is simply owning a gun that was not approved by the almighty state government of New York. It's just absolutely outrageous.

Miguel said...

More fun stuff on this topic from the Burress article about his plea agreement:

A Manhattan grand jury had indicted Burress on two felony counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment in the second degree. He faced 3-1/2 to 15 years in prison if convicted of the weapon possession charges, and up to one year in jail if convicted of the reckless endangerment charge, according to prosecutors.

Recklessly enderaging other people: 1 year in gail
Owning a gun, a right that is supposed to be constitutionally guaranteed to not be infringed: 3.5-15 years in jail.

What. The. Fuck.

Pierce said...

Well if he doesn't register his gun with the "almighty" state government, Miguel, then how are they expected to regulate the militia well? Feel free to quote the recent precedent (from the DC case, I think) indicating that the SCOTUS doesn't much care about that part of the second amendment... but I'll feel similarly free to quote the longstanding precedent that regulating the "keeping" and "bearing" of arms is not necessarily infringement.

As for the original "sentencing fail", I agree that it seems pretty arbitrary but I also think the mitigating circumstances of the Stallworth case apply... the man he hit was illegally crossing a busy highway.

And as for Vick and Burress, Vick's crime could have, at worst, "only" caused harm to animals. Burress's crime could have caused harm to people. Their actual consequences are certainly mitigating factors but they're still different classes of crime.

Ben said...

The reason federal Sentencing Guidelines (read: not guidelines at all, but mandatory) were first created was because of sentencing results that seemed outrageously inconsistent, like Jeff pointed out.

The reason federal sentencing guidelines were wildly unpopular in the legal and judicial community (well, at least the community I was familiar with) and were recently rendered non-mandatory by the Supreme Court: because, as Pierce points out, there are always multiple factors to consider that aren't immediately clear when one simply looks at the name of the crime and the sentence.

Barzelay said...

It's kind of amazing how poor a job sentencing does at proxying society's opinions about the reprehensibility of crimes. On the other hand, I think we often overlook how silly society's priorities are when it comes to criminal justice. In the public mind, Michael Vick is certainly more demonized than Donte Stallworth, while Plaxico gets off really easy because the seriously negative consequences of his actions didn't come to pass.

But consider that if our sentencing really tracked our opinions, a 24 year-old school teacher would get the death sentence for falling in love with his 16 year-old student. To me, that seems like a perverse sentence where there should be no crime at all. To society, it seems that there's almost no greater crime.

Society's priorities also change over time. At one point, drunk driving would not have been considered any big deal. Now it's a huge deal to people. How do sentencing laws reconcile those changes in opinion, when criminals could be held long past the point where their crimes become less serious in the public mind?