As a Criminal Justice professional, I have a strong interest in news about crime and sentencing. I’ve always felt that judges should be provided with wide discretion in sentencing. Granted that this often means that the public may not be happy when a judge chooses to be lenient – but it also means that judges get to drop the hammer on someone when circumstances warrant – rather than having to use calculus to come up with a sentencing structure. Specifically, the federal courts and Massachusetts’s Criminal Courts use a sentencing matrix – and this drives me absolutely crazy.
I have a professional interest in this in the areas of identity theft, felony and misdemeanor (petty theft in Massachusetts) theft, and related crimes that I deal with at work. But that’s not my point.
Indiana doesn’t use a sentencing matrix or any crap like that – and thus we get wonderful sentences like this one, reported in yesterday’s Indianapolis Star:
Anthony Keith Brown and two of the police officers he tried to kill stared at each other in a Marion County courtroom Friday.
“You wasn’t laughing that night, was you?” Brown said, after the judge and most of the spectators had left the courtroom.
“I am now,” Officer Andy Lamle replied.
Officer Frank Miller II got in the last word as deputies ushered Brown away to begin serving a 126-year prison sentence:
“Enjoy your cage,” Miller said.
Brown led police on a car chase in December 2002, then unleashed a barrage of bullets at three Indianapolis Police Department officers.
Judge Sheila Carlisle of Marion Superior Court sentenced Brown on Friday for the attempted murders of Miller, Lamle and Officer Linda Jackson, who did not attend the sentencing.
Carlisle said a long prison term was the only way to protect society from the 26-year-old Brown.
“He clearly has a pattern of three things: guns, drugs and disregard for police authority,” Carlisle said in court. “If Mr. Brown is out in our community, or any other community, he’s going to get involved in criminal activity.”
A jury convicted Brown on May 12 of three counts of attempted murder, dealing cocaine and other crimes.
Brown repeatedly fired a rifle at the police officers during the Dec. 21, 2002, shootout.
“This defendant is an animal and deserves to be locked up for the rest of his life,” Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said after the hearing.
After leading police on a car chase, Brown fired at least 34 shots from a MAK 90 assault rifle at the officers near Sherman Drive and 32nd Street.
The Massachusetts Criminal Code takes up about three inches on my shelf in my office. The Indiana Code takes up about 1/2 of an inch.
Which system is more effective? There’s no question.