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Posted: 3/20/2006 5:34:31 PM EDT
In every criminal case in Florida, the judge gives the jury the following instruction:

Your duty is to determine if the defendant has been proven guilty or not, in accord with the law. It is the judge's job to determine a proper sentence if the defendant is found guilty.


There are any number of crimes in Florida which carry minimum sentences. If the jury finds a man guilty of Capital Sexual Battery, the judge determines nothing. He simply writes in the appropriate blank "Imprisonment for the balance of his natural life with no possibility of release by any means for a period of 25 calendar years." If the jury finds a man guilty of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, the judge can decide how much more than 3 years day-for-day thje guy will do, but the jury's verdict automatically sentences the defendant to a minimum of 3 years imprisonment. A guilty vedict on a home burglary imposes a minimum of 27 months in prison, no matter what the judge thinks.

So, given that the sentence is largely determined by operation of law with no exercise of discretion by anybody in deciding the minimum sentence, is the judge lying when he says

It is the judge's job to determine a proper sentence if the defendant is found guilty
? Is this simply a means of slicing responsibility for what we do to one another into tiny, easily swallowed pieces that won't keep us awake? I mean, it's one thing to send a guy off for 16 months because the evidence against him is "pretty strong;" it'd be a different matter altogether to send him off for life without parole (which, of course, the judge would never tell you about in advance) on evidence of the same quality.
Link Posted: 3/20/2006 5:47:04 PM EDT
btt
Link Posted: 3/20/2006 5:51:30 PM EDT
In cases where a defendent will get an unjust minimum sentence, I have two words for you: "Jury Nullification"

Google it and spread the word.
Link Posted: 3/20/2006 6:16:47 PM EDT

Originally Posted By PromptCritical:
In cases where a defendent will get an unjust minimum sentence, I have two words for you: "Jury Nullification"

Google it and spread the word.



You are quite right. But here's what I'm considering doing: Filing a motion in my next jury trial asking the court to refrain from giving that instruction because it is a false statement of fact and law, and substituting and accurate statement such as "If you find the defendant guilty of Robbery with a Firearm, he will be sentenced to a term of not less than ten years day for day nor more than life without parole. If you find him guilty of simple Robbery, he will be sentenced to not less than 48 months nor more than 15 years' imprisonment. [et c.]"

How loony do you think it sounds to say "Your honor, the instructions mandated by the Florida Supreme Court require you to lie to the jury, because the minimum sentence is in fact fixed by the verdict. I ask that you give an instruction which informs the jury of the actual consequences of their decision and of the moral responsibility they bear for their verdict."?
Link Posted: 3/20/2006 6:19:47 PM EDT
tag.
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