A Glowing Sentencing Case

After my (slightly) academic analysis about military sanity boards, you may be looking for something that has more literary value and attention-grabbing qualities. Look no further than this post by M. Night Pattis.

After reading the first paragraph, I supposed it would be a poetic description of a young man boarding a Navy cruiser and embarking on a 1-year tactical Navy deployment. Just as I assumed that premise, Norm knocked me to the ground and kicked two of my teeth-out (in a literary sense). SPOILER ALERT: The ending is sad. Really sad. And it establishes that discretion is not as bad a thing as lawmakers claim.

This brings-up something that I always took for granted: Mandatory Minimums.

In my little niche in the legal world, very, very few crimes have minimum sentences, and they are outliers in the grand scheme of Military Justice. 99% of all alleged military crimes lack any mandatory minimums.

I am accustomed to hearing this jury instruction:

In adjudging a sentence, you are restricted to the kinds of punishment which I will now describe or you may adjudge no punishment. There are several matters which you should consider in determining an appropriate sentence. You should bear in mind that our society recognizes five principle reasons for the sentence of those who violate the law. They are rehabilitation of the wrongdoer, punishment of the wrongdoer, protection of society from the wrongdoer, preservation of good order and discipline in the military, and deterrence of the wrongdoer and those who know of his crimes and his sentence from committing the same or similar offenses. The weight to be given any or all of these reasons, along with all other sentencing matters in this case, rests solely within your discretion. (Taken from the Military Judges’ Benchbook)

That leaves just about anything (up to the maximum and down to no punishment) possible.

I must confess that I have largely taken this for granted. Unfortunately, public furor and the desire of public officials to be reelected demands that the bar for “tough on crime” be raised at a constant and consistent pace.

How do they get tough on crime? Two ways: increased maximums and established mandatory minimums. Usually, the mandatory minimums arise because some judge (who does that (typically) experienced lawyer think he is, using his experience and judgment?) awards a relatively light sentence after hearing matters presented in extenuation and mitigation. So, what do we do? We make a law that rips some of that discretion away and forces the judge to do nothing more than read from an excel spreadsheet. It is wonderful, unless you are someone who knows of the convict’s rehabilitative potential. Those darned people who weigh all the evidence.

So, thanks to Norm for that extremely insightful post, and thanks to society for demanding that all convicts wear a one-size-fits-all sentencing suit. Sure, it may cling to some like a glove, but others are left looking, feeling, and living the rest of their lives like absolute crap–deserved or not.

H/T to J. Kindley and anonymous for helping me to find the Pattis post again.