3.11.2007

Random Justice Thoughts

Let me summarize what happens to this guy: He was involved in an "armed robbery" when he was 17 where the victim was robbed of $2 and no one was hurt. He was given deferred adjudication probation for the offense. One danger of deferred adjudication is that a violation of probation can lead to a sentence from a judge (a jury is not an option) of anywhere within the range of punishment. The range of punishment for this guy's offense is that of a first degree felony meaning no less than 5 years and up to life in prison. In his case, he tested positive for smoking marijuana while on probation and the judge, for whatever reason, sentences him to the maximum: life in prison. This weekend, after spending 17 years in prison, he gets a very unusual pardon simply because his sentence was unfair.

Hey, man, get in line.

Our system is really weird when it comes to probation violations and revocations. For instance, every probation order I've ever seen (and I bet I've seen over a thousand), requires a defendant to "abstain from the use of illegal narcotics or drugs." But:

- There is no law that requires a probation officer to test a probationer for marijuana. Some guys get tested, others don't.
- If a person tests positive for marijuana, there is no law that says a probation officer must tell the prosecutor about the violation (if the prosecutor never knows, the probation can never be revoked.)
- If the probation officer tells the prosecutor about the positive test for marijuana, there is no law that says the prosecutor must try to revoke the probation. The prosecutor can simply determine, based upon his or her own standard of justice, whether the violation is "serious enough."
- If the prosecutor files a Motion to Revoke the probation for a marijuana violation, there is no law that says a judge must revoke a probation. A hearing could be held where the prosecutor "proves up" the violation, the judge can find that the defendant violated his probation, but the judge at that point can do everything from nothing to the maximum sentence.

Like I said, a weird system.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

A very unjust system is what I say. 17 years for smoking marijuana is completely appalling.

Anonymous said...

Do you know of a better one?

wordkyle said...

I'm no lawyer, but what strikes me as weird is how you just glossed over the "armed robbery." He only got $2 for his trouble? Maybe next time he'll choose a better class of victim. No one was hurt? Maybe next time he'll be in a bad mood and kill someone .

Seventeen years is very harsh for a marijuana violation. But probation seems very very lenient for "armed robbery."

Anonymous said...

Yeah, a billions of dollars later they let one guy out so the State, ie. the people of the state, don't have to pay for his lodging and cheap food anymore. When are we going to get this fixed? The jails are so overcrowded at this time that we don't have room for murderers and child molesters.
Come on people, let the guy smoke his joint. It's not hurting anyone other than possibly himself.

betty boop said...

I don't think marijuana is the issue...he was given the privilege of probation for armed robbery. He knew exactly what was expected of him while he was on probation. The life sentence was too harsh, I agree...but I'm sure he knew the possible sentence he could face if he screwed up while on probation...it was his fault. And here we go again, blaming the system or anything or anybody else, but the one who is at fault.

Anonymous said...

The system isn't at fault for the fact that he got his probation revoked and did some time. The system IS at fault - clearly - for the fact that he got a LIFE SENTENCE. Neither the first offense armed robbery at age 17, nor the marijuana probation violation, possibly justified anything close to this.

And what Barry is trying to point out here is that there are too many junctures in this part of the system where what happens relies entirely on somebody's "discretion". A little strange when you consider that other parts of the system impose "mandatory sentences", where NO ONE has any "discretion".

And no, there's no better system than ours .... but that is very largely because we are constantly tinkering with it, trying to iron out the bugs and correct (or shift) the imperfections .... of which this case is one.

Anonymous said...

Most of you seem to assume that this individual "understood" the consequenses of violating his probation. This guy was dumb enough to be associated with a robbery, too incompetent or too poor to find an attorney to get him off in the first place. I'll bet he also violated several other aspects of his probation (for however long he was on probation). The bottom line fact about most violators of laws just don't think about getting caught.

So what happened to all those in the system who had a chance to dipose of this in a logical manner and failed thus resulting in the goofy judge imposing the life sentence? Do you really think society was safer with this guy in prison for 17 years? Do you think he'll never do anything "illegal" again? Do you think this guy has learned to be a model citizen while in jail?

Anonymous said...

Justice was served in this case. His original punishment was lenient in the armed robbery case, the fact that he only got $2 is irrelevent. What is relevent is that it was armed robbery. Looks to me like the judge realized this when he revoked the probation and set a punishment he felt was just for the original crime. I agree that this punishment was too harsh, but it worked out in the end because Perry pardoned him. His sentence was not based on the marijuana, but based on the armed robbery.

Anonymous said...

If you guys think this is bad let me tell you a few stories.

I know a "man" who about a year ago takes a steel pipe and beats a women with in inches of her life. She calls the police they say: "ma'am, we cant do anything unless we see it."

So the next week when she gets out of the hospital he sees her and beats her AGAIN! She calls the police and still nothing. So she gets herself a good lawyer and threatens to sue, 6 MONTHS later they arrest the guy. I bet your asking yourself: what happened to the guy? Well, he serves 3 MONTHS in JAIL for a agg assault with weapon charge (2nd degree felony) and a attempted murder charge (1st degree felony). The day of his trial he takes a plea of, dropping the first charge and getting the second reduced all the way to a class b misdemeanor. He gets TIME SERVED!!!!!!!!

Then theres my neighbor. When I was 10 or 12 he takes nasty pictures of himself and puts them all over my door. I call the police, and guess what? He makes a "deal" basically he agrees to work as a snitch so they don't arrest him. Thats Justice for you...

HHL said...

9:21: excellent comment. very good explanation for those who are mischaracterizing Barry's point.

Also, I recall reading a very in-depth article in the DMN about this guy's situation several months ago. I assume this coverage contributed to the commutation of his sentence.

While I don't recall the specifics, there were some really strange details involved in his armed robbery case. He was either not really involved in the crime, or there was very little evidence of his involvement, etc. Essentially, he took the deferred adjudication because it was the simplest way for someone in his situation (i.e., young, unsophisticated, impoverished, etc.) of getting off the hook in the short term.

This was also featured on 20/20. The coverage, as in the DMN article, contrasted Tyrone Brown's case with that of a wealthy white man who had murdered someone in cold blood, received deferred adjudication, and then tested positive for cocaine multiple times, as well as committed various other crimes while on probation, and never served any significant jail time, despite his case being handled by the same judge that sentenced Mr. Brown to life in prison.

Anonymous said...

Note to self: if I rob someone and am lucky enough to only get probation, don't smoke pot.

Anonymous said...

And that is the only armed robbery that he got caught on. Bet he was in possession that night too, OOPS that's at least a Class B Misdeamonor. In Wise County that would be triple X probation. That's when the prosecutor tells offender, "One more time after three offenses we are going to give you another year @ $175.00 per month."

Anonymous said...

He is not to blame. His mother's sperm donor let him smoke pot when he was 2 years old while she was asleep.

Collectionsite said...

I think he should have been given life for the armed robbery and then he wouldn't have been in that situation.

It sounds like he got what he really deserved ... 17 years for committing a crime. Now all the other "Open Interpretations" of the law is understandable.

How else are "Good Ole Boys" gonna walk?