Recently, a U.S. citizen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a Scott County courtroom. I assume that as part of his plea agreement, the defendant admitted certain facts and that those facts constituted a sufficient basis for finding the defendant guilty of second-degree murder without intent.
Other than what has been reported by the media, I know nothing about the defendant or the case. I do not know if the sentence was appropriate or not. What I do know is that the remarks made by Judge Stacey are troubling. As reported by Southwest News Media, Judge Rex Stacey said that he wished the defendant had withdrawn his guilty plea so that he could have sentenced him to life imprisonment. Life imprisonment was not an option for the plea entered. One can only infer that Judge Stacey, without the benefit of a trial, had already decided that the defendant was guilty of a more serious crime.
In addition, Judge Stacey, after telling the defendant that he was barely human, ordered penalties that were more severe than those suggested by the sentencing guidelines. That “upward departure” was based upon a pre-sentencing investigation which appears to have included information that had not been established as fact and was not subject to cross-examination.
As our country continues to deal with what our constitutional rights are on a national level, perhaps Scott County residents should take a look at what is happening in their own backyard. While it is easy to think that one won't be a defendant in a murder trial, is it that difficult to imagine a family member in a heated dispute, an adolescent shop lifting, or perhaps, a weary business owner opening contrary to an executive order?
If a judge cannot be fair and impartial in a case involving life and death, why would we expect them to be so in less serious matters?
I thank Southwest News Media for taking the time to report these comments and I hope that they continue to do so, even in those cases that appear less significant. As food for thought, I close with these two quotes:
“A Judge is not supposed to know anything about the facts of life until they have been presented in evidence and explained to him at least three times.” -Hubert Lister Parker, Lord Chief Justice of England, "The Observer," 1961.
“A Judge is unjust who hears but one side of a case, even though he decided justly.” Seneca, 4 B.C.-65 A.D; Medea