Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Stay Away From Drugs & Stupid Men"

I watched a woman, age 38, who was in trouble with the law for the first time in her life. She stood in the jury box, wearing a blue jail jumpsuit, shackles, and was pleading no contest to numerous felonies that arose from her involvement with a man that got her hooked on drugs. In the four cases, the charges included Robbery with a Deadly Weapon, Grand Theft (3cts), Theft, & Possession of Controlled Substance.

Judge Roger McDonald showed a kindness toward her that one doesn't often witness in court. Too many times, the plea process seems like an 18-wheeler barreling down the road - judges rattle through the questions at a rapid-fire pace, public defenders having had only a few moments to talk with their clients that morning, and "new" defendants sometimes bewildered by it all. This lady scored a minimum sentence of 52.5 months in the Department of Corrections for her crimes. Judge McDonald took several minutes to explain why sentencing guidelines were implemented in Florida and why he rarely varies from them. He encouraged her to take advantage of the substance abuse programs and other counseling that would be available to her in prison. And he told her he hopes she "stays away from drugs and stupid men."

I hope she does too.

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