Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Breaking News

Opinion

January 8, 2014

Judges need flexibility

Mandatory sentences tie hands of judicial branch.

Activist judges who try to legislate from the bench have, rightfully, been the subject of a great deal of criticism. But we also need to begin turning a critical eye on legislators who want to be judges from the Statehouse.

We fully understand and even agree with the intent of a bill designed by state Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, that would require Indiana judges to add 20 years onto the prison sentences of people who use a firearm during a violent crime. Gun violence is a problem, but as we have said many times on this page it is the criminals who need to be punished, rather than law abiding gun owners.

Adding an additional 20 years for using a gun to commit a crime is one way to tackle that problem without punishing responsible gun owners. And it is a solution many law enforcement officers like [Grant County] Prosecutor Jim Luttrull and Sheriff Darrell Himelick believe will serve as a deterrent.

Yes, such a law might well serve as a deterrent, but we elect judges because not every case is the same. We expect those on the bench to weigh all the factors when issuing a sentence. We are not all going to agree on every sentence — just recently we took exception with [former Marion Fire] Chief Steve Gorrell’s punishment — but overall judges get it right much more often than not.

Yet lawmakers continue to try and tie judges’ hands with more and more mandatory minimums. And some, such as columnist George Will, have argued that severe mandatory minimums have encouraged some prosecutors to overcharge defendants as a way to pressure them into plea bargains.

Still, there are ways to make Merritt’s proposal work for prosecutors and still give judges the discretion they need. For example, the additional 20 year sentence could be an option for the judge to increase the sentence for a violent offender, or to waive for a first-time offender with no past record. Or, as is the case with the habitual offender enhancement, it could be an option presented for the jury to decide. The option could even be left up to the judge unless a weapon is discharged, in which case the 20 years become automatic.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • CHEERS & JEERS: Livestock donations appreciated; what's a GMO? Thanks to folks at Kokomo BeachCarrie Giannakos, professional relations coordinator at Jarrell Orthodontics, sends this Cheer on behalf of the dental practice:“Dr. Kevin Jarrell and the team at Jarrell Orthodontics want to send a Cheer to the staff a

    July 26, 2014

  • RAY DAY: Some laws will do us in In my opinion, we have made laws that are contrary to what they were intended. And this writer is going to let you in on his thoughts about them. One of the things that has been processed incorrectly is the child abuse law. When you tell the parent h

    July 26, 2014

  • A great way to offer help The United Way of Howard County does so much for this community that it would be difficult, in this space, to describe even a fraction of the things United Way donations accomplish.Think what Kokomo and Howard County would lose if there were no Court

    July 25, 2014

  • MARK HEINIG JR.: Will Pence, Ritz and their playmates ever grow up? Many Hoosier Republicans are curious about Gov. Mike Pence’s future. He probably is, too. Assuming he doesn’t wish to return to Congress or retire from politics, he must decide whether to seek another term as governor of Indiana or run for president

    July 25, 2014

  • LETTERS: Mast homestead celebrates 150 years Mast homestead celebrates 150 yearsThe two-story frame, Pennsylvania-Dutch style house on the Larry and Barbara Hensler farm 2 miles west of Plevna is 150 years old this year. In fact it may even be a little older than that. Lloyd Hensler used to say

    July 25, 2014

  • LEE HAMILTON: Why congressional incumbents keep getting re-elected It’s no news that Congress is unpopular. In fact, at times it seems like the only real novelty on Capitol Hill would be a jump in its approval rating. In June, a Gallup poll found members’ standing with the American people at a historic low for a mid

    July 25, 2014

  • Road must be made safer Eight months ago, the Indiana Department of Transportation opened the new U.S. 31 bypass east of Kokomo. Joining Mayor Greg Goodnight was Gov. Mike Pence. Even the Kokomo High School marching band performed at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. It was the

    July 24, 2014

  • SEN. JIM BUCK: New laws offer help for kids Families with children who have special needs often face difficulties finding the best care or treatment for their specific circumstance. During the 2014 legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly passed several initiatives to assist these fam

    July 24, 2014

  • LETTERS: Christians must stand with Israel 'As Christians we must stand with life' The present conflict in Israel is with Hamas, recognized even in Egypt as a terrorist organization. Recently Hamas formed a unity government with the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. They're now the government in

    July 24, 2014

  • BILL STANCZYKIEWICZ: Youth sports leagues are on troubling decline An important youth development activity is looking to end a recent losing streak. Participation in organized youth sports leagues for baseball, football, basketball and soccer declined by 4 percent between 2008-2012, according to a report in the Wall

    July 24, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Palestinians and Israeli Soldiers Clash Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll