September 1, 2021 Letters
Thank you for printing the August letters of Mark Warda, Leo B. Hill, and Edward P. Dutkiewicz. Their thoughtful explaining of the terms “rights” and “privileges” to Elizabeth J. Barber in response to her July letter is most helpful.
Mr. Dutkiewicz is to be particularly singled out for praise for rightfully dismissing Ms. Barber’s suggestion of legislative collaboration as a method of controlling gun violence as nothing more than an emotional plea. He then goes on to give us a simple, three-ingredient recipe for dealing with the issue. The first ingredient involves the placement of an adult male in every household. I do wonder what we are to do if there is no living father? Are substitutions allowed? Perhaps any human who self-identifies as male? The second ingredient is the banning of video games. All attorney-gamers are familiar with that overwhelming compulsion to go out and kill that comes from gaming, and should therefore welcome the blessed relief that would result from a ban. The third ingredient is the prosecution in adult criminal court of any child (regardless of age) who commits a crime with a firearm. Good luck to the 2-year-old who gets ahold of the family handgun and shoots the baby.
In all seriousness, there are two factual errors in Mr. Dutkiewicz’s letter that should be addressed. First, the term “social contract” is not a trendy euphemism for the Constitution. Social Contract theory comes to us from Enlightenment philosopher Thomas Hobbes, among others. The basic premise of the theory is that individuals willingly give up certain personal desires and freedoms in order to live within an orderly society. For example, the nudist gun-collector attorney who would like nothing better than to walk through the courthouse clad only in numerous firearms, but wisely decides not to. Secondly, communities who fail to collaborate with law enforcement in apprehending criminals do not do so for fear of the criminals, but instead because of fear of/lack of trust in law enforcement. Hence, the growing popularity of trust-building management structures within law enforcement such as community-oriented-policing.
Personally, if ever confronted by a maniacal mass-murderer, I’d prefer that my maniac be armed with a butcher knife rather than an AK. But hey, maybe that’s just the emotional woman in me.
‘The Fairest of Them All’
Back in January, I located closed felony case sentencing data for five of the most prevalent offenses that are routinely handled in felony courts in all 20 judicial circuits from Pensacola to Key West. The results spanned from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2020. I provided the data to a college student at a Florida university studying data science while pursuing a B.S. in computer and information sciences. I instructed the student to run the data and come up with the top three judges in all 20 judicial circuits who sentenced defendants with the greatest consistency with respect to coming the absolute closest to the circuit-wide average sentences for aggravated assault, burglary, drug possession, drug sales, and grand theft. The study is titled, “The Fairest of Them All, Equal Justice in Sentencing Awards,” the results of which have been published in several news articles and/or opinion editorials around Florida.
The latest project involves ranking the top performing circuits with respect to the same five offenses. The purpose of this study is to allow judges, prosecutors, public defenders, regional conflict counsel, private criminal defense attorneys, the media and, most importantly, the public at-large, to be apprised of exactly which judicial circuits are performing at optimal levels with regard to equitable, impartial, and therefore non-disparate sentencing.
Accordingly, this study evaluated and assessed which judicial circuits are the absolute best at imposing equitable and therefore non-disparate sentences among the five specified offenses scoring from 22 to 44 Criminal Punishment Code points. In particular, the analyses determined which circuits generate the best consistency with regard to the average ranges of punishment for the aforesaid five offenses as compared intra-circuit and inter-circuit.
A multi-step analysis was performed because different circuits have different sentencing practices for the same offenses. For example, some jurisdictions tolerate certain offenses over others while others can be somewhat less merciful with regard to other charges. Moreover, each circuit was first compared within itself and then compared with other circuits. The most important matter is that the circuits with the greatest consistency in sentencing African-Americans and whites closest to either side of that particular circuit’s established sentence averages for each respective offense will tend to be the fairest. Without any doubt whatsoever, judges, elected prosecutors, public defenders, their respective division chiefs, line attorneys as well as private practitioners and regional conflict counsel attorneys work together to achieve such laudable results. Since approximately 95% of all cases are closed via plea-bargaining, they all deserve credit for facilitating equal justice in criminal sentencing in each respective circuit being recognized.
It is my sincerest prayer and expectant hope that this research project will inspire prosecutors, judges, public and private criminal defense practitioners to use the same to meaningfully evaluate and thereby substantially improve criminal justice in all 20 judicial circuits. With this objective in mind, I am only releasing the top scoring circuits that are statistically “The Fairest of Them All.” I have intentionally omitted the lowest scoring circuits for the well-founded “fear” that more attention and therefore negative energy would be spent criticizing the least performing circuits while failing to celebrate the highest and best performing jurisdictions.
Perhaps the most important objective in this entire experiment is to inspire lower performing circuits to glean from higher performing jurisdictions to improve their performance. The results are contained within this link https://tinyurl.com/FairestCircuits2021B.