Times Picayune writer Jarvis DeBerry brought up an interesting point recently in one of his articles. He suggests that judges have lost some sentencing power to prosecutors due to a couple of Louisiana laws. Below is a summary of his article.
Cornell Hood was initially given a life sentence last year for a fourth conviction for marijuana possession. (Click here for a video that describes the penalties associated with possession of marijuana in Louisiana.) Because of the multiple-offender statute, judges have to follow the prosecutors’ lead. Consequently, the judge had to agree with the prosecutors’ plan to send Hood to prison for life. However, after a public outcry, prosecutors reduced Hood’s sentence to 25 years.
After writing $7,681 in worthless checks over a three-year period, and three convictions, Melissa Harris was facing 20 years to life for forging a $200 check. The church that was defrauded by Harris interceded on her behalf. After that, the prosecutor decided that the she should only serve 10 years in prison.
Brian Martin was sentenced to 24 years in prison for a second car burglary conviction. (Click here for more information regarding burglary laws in Louisiana.) Lucky for Martin, prosecutors ignored similar prior convictions in Beauregard Parish, or he could have been sent away for life.
Click here to read a previous blog post about harsh sentences for prior drug convictions in Livingston Parish.
One of the roles of judges is to use their best judgment to sentence convicted criminals. DeBerry suggests that judges have lost some of this discretion because of Louisiana laws that impose minimum sentences and multiple-offender statutes that hand over much of the sentencing power to prosecutors. If judges have lost some discretion in sentencing, criminal defense attorneys play an important role in negotiating plea bargains. If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, be sure to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, who can negotiate the best possible deal. Contact Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Attorney Carl Barkemeyer to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.
Source: www. Nola.com, “Sentencing ought to be put back in judges’ hands: Jarvis DeBerry,” April 3, 2012.