Attorney finds Tribune editorial ‘ill-conceived’

Published 4:45 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I was very disappointed in your editorial Aug. 30 (Court sends wrong message). This editorial was both misinformed and ill-conceived.

The gist of the editorial was that by his sentence of a man in connection with a charge of animal abuse, Judge Donald Capper was sending the wrong message to would-be animal abusers.

However, the purpose of sentencing in a criminal case is not to send messages to the community, but to find the appropriate sentence for the guilty party. Judges do not sentence in a vacuum; there are laws that the judge must consider in determining an appropriate sentence.

Email newsletter signup

From what I know about the case, Judge Capper’s sentence was within the guidelines and entirely appropriate.

Aside from the fact that your editorial is factually in error, it betrays a profound ignorance of how the criminal justice system works.

You seem, for example, to find something sinister in the court’s refusal to follow the prosecutor’s recommendation. However, judges are not bound by the recommendation, and I have seen judges, including Judge Capper, deviate from those recommendations by giving harsher sentences than recommended, when it is appropriate.

Neither is community service “a slap on the wrist” as you apparently assert. Both municipal court judges in Lawrence County use community service as an alternative to jail. Jail is terribly expensive for the county, does no useful rehabilitation and helps no one. At least by performing community service, offenders give back to the community.

Likewise, an order to pay $2,100 in restitution is not a slap on the wrist, at least to persons who earn less than Tribune editors.

Your haste in forming judgment on incomplete facts and ignorance of procedure is another reason why it is better to have judges and courts of law rather than lynch mobs.

Your editorial maligns an eminently fair and honorable judge. You owe Judge Capper and your readers an apology.