Top Utah Attorney response to judge's comments
This post is in response to a story about a Provo judge that made national news about comments he uttered during sentencing.
You have to understand the whole purpose of sentencing. This was a two-hour hearing. Both sides bring in parties that can testify to the character of an individual to what they have done in their lives, their employment history, family history, service to the community, how they have dealt with others, how others perceive him, there is no doubt that this judge listened to a long "Nice" part of the Christmas list.
The judge has to weigh those mitigating factors in coming to a final determination that he receives from testimony. So he had to acknowledge the "Nice" list. He said as little as he could-have about the nice list. Christopher Columbus did nice, good, extraordinary things and so did Heranando De Soto. But some actions outweigh the nice that results in a 5 - life prison sentence or the slaughtering or enslavement of a race. That's what happened at that hearing.
The attorneys at the hearing never took it out of context because they deal with judges trying to be fair and act like they are playing the good-man. They know that it is somewhat of a pony show to the defendant. This is his last view of the real-world until he is shoved into a cement wall until the day he dies. A lot of Judges try to give the guys some kind of positive thought before going to prison that they can think about because they always remembers every word that comes out of the judge's mouth before they are hauled-out. This has nothing to do with religion.
The fact that this is being brought up to say that individuals are getting the bad-end of the stick for not having the same-faith of the judge is unfair. I agree in Utah there is a bias against defendants but I don't think there is a religious aspect to it. I think all people get screwed in Utah for having a run-in with an officer no matter what the reason is. If someone does bring up the fact that they are religious at a sentencing hearing, I think that it is proper for a judge to weigh that in during sentencing, but any judge would see that it will hurt him more than help him. "If you claim you practice this religion then why aren't you following it?"
I also think that the judge has every right to bring in his religious thoughts at sentencing, that encompasses freedom of expression, and freedom of religion. The only time freedom of religion comes into a red-flag-zone is if someone uses their religion or their position to force others to join that religion. That is what separation from church and state means. If the judge said, "because you are Mormon then I am letting you off the hook" or "if you get baptized into the Mormon church then I will reduce your sentence" or "I only give life sentences to people who aren't Mormon."
He didn't say anything like that. He had every right to say what he did as a judge, sentencing has loose rules and different judges have different styles. Some judges like to throw the book at defendants and some judges like to give them some kind of advice before they banish them from society forever, some mix it up as well depending on the circumstance and what the judge ate for breakfast that morning.
So in the end, he didn't break any rules with what he said but apparently hurt a lot of people's feelings who don't sit-in on a sentencing hearings everyday, but instead get their education of the legal system from movies and TV shows from actors that have never held a law degree or have no clue how a sentencing hearing works.
What have been better? Shouting obscenities? Condemning every action in that man's life as extreme and outrageous behavior including how he swiped his credit card at the grocery store? What if he was the quarterback for his high school team that won state? What if he went on to play college ball at whatever college and made some kind of record there? What if he invented the lightbulb? People wanted a noose, and the judge gave a noose with a little gold star for doing some kind of "good" and "extraordinary actions" at some point in his life. Congratulations. Now with that, enjoy staring at a cement wall the rest of your life.