July 14, 2012 9:33:51 PM
In the July 11th Dispatch, a "Slimantics" column was run purporting to relate the substance of remarks I made to a local service club. Believing that my comments have been greatly misrepresented, I write in response; knowing as I do that you will have the last word.
In what was perhaps the most outrageous distortion, the columnist claimed that I partly blamed the local judges for criminals only serving a fraction of their sentences. This was so, asserted the columnist, because I fault them for not following my plea recommendations.
Not only did I not say that, I never intimated it; nor have I ever thought it. At the first of my remarks, I explained the sentencing process. I then went into those things that impact a sentence that the public usually doesn't know about. Lastly, I went into the issue of the amount of time an offender actually serves. I don't understand how the columnist put the first part of my remarks with the last and came up with the conclusion he drew.
Judges have to make tough calls; and it's frequent enough that I find myself glad that I don't have to make their decision. Consequently, you have never seen me criticizing a judge for his sentence. Nor will you.
The columnist apparently makes this claim so he can take me to task for "...sentencing people for crimes they were never convicted of." By this, he means the practice of rolling all of a defendants charges into a single plea. For example: The defendant is charged with a robbery, a burglary, and a drug sale. He agrees to plead to the drug sale. The columnist apparently believes that in such cases, we are to turn a blind eye to his other charges and sentence him as if he had only been charged with one drug sale. We, of course, don't do that.
While he may find the practice offensive, he will also find it widespread. It's done all over the state. That's because the Mississippi Supreme Court has said that a defendant's other pending charges are a legitimate factor to be considered in sentencing. I am sending you separately a copy of Baldwin v. State, 732 So2d 236 wherein the court held such.
I am accused of playing psychologist for telling the club that low self-esteem is not a factor in criminal activity. What I actually said was that every study I have ever seen says that it is not a factor; and that most criminals are narcissistic. Why is it wrong for me to quote the research I have read? Do not others do so?
Finally, the columnist asserts that I said that criminals like it better incarcerated than they do being on the outside. Actually, a club member brought this up, indicating that he had heard some former inmates saying as much. My response was that, sad to say, some do go to a better environment than they left. I never made the blanket statement attributed to me by the columnist.
The criminal justice system sparks intense debate. Many feel the system is too hard, others too easy. I know I have a reputation of being tough, and I don't apologize for that. If the columnist disagrees with me on criminal justice issues, I don't resent him for it. He is entitled to his opinion even as I am entitled to mine.
But don't misrepresent what I say. That's dishonest.
The writer is district attorney for the 16th Circuit Court District.
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