Sunday, November 05, 2006

Life sentence for smoking a joint

When I started at the law firm 20 years ago, I believed in justice. This is why I stopped believing in it.
First came the poor man, barely 17 years old – too young to buy beer or vote, but an adult under the Texas penal code. He took part in a $2 stickup in which no one got hurt. He pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was put on 10 years of probation.

He broke the rules once, by smoking marijuana. A Dallas judge responded in the harshest possible way: He replaced the original sentence with a life term in prison.
Same judge, different defendant.
A well-connected man pleaded guilty to murder – for shooting an unarmed prostitute in the back – and also got 10 years of probation. The killer proceeded to break the rules by, among other things, smoking crack cocaine. He repeatedly failed drug tests. He was arrested for cocaine possession in Waco while driving a congressman's car, but prosecutors there didn't press charges.

Judge Dean has let this man stay free and, last year, exempted him from most of the usual conditions of probation. John Alexander "Alex" Wood no longer must submit to drug tests or refrain from owning a gun or even meet with a probation officer. He's simply supposed to obey the law and mail the court a postcard once a year that gives his current address.
I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn the poor guy is black and the well connected man is white. Decide for yourself if justice, or society, has been served in either case.

[hat tip Jules Siegel]


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