Skip to comments.120 Texas killers got probation, study finds
Posted on 11/11/2007 8:15:37 AM PST by trumandogz
DALLAS With Texas' aggressive record in capital punishment, few would consider it to be soft on convicted murderers.
But a newspaper investigation has found that at least 120 Texas killers since 2000 have received the lightest sentence of all probation.
The Dallas Morning News reported today that many of the killers given probation were career criminals and that at least three freed murderers had previously killed someone.
"Before everything happened, I thought Texas as a whole was pretty tough on crime," said Gene Thompson, the father of a teenage boy who was shot and killed over a $100 debt. The killer received probation.
Thompson's assessment now: "If you want to commit murder, come to Dallas."
Since 2000, 47 convicted killers in Dallas County have received probation; that's 9 percent of all murder sentences in the county. During that time, Dallas County has put more than twice as many murderers on probation as it has sent to death.
Dallas County granted probation for murderers at more than twice the rate in Harris County and more than three times the rate in Tarrant County.
The light sentences surprise even some of the murderers, including a killer who gunned down his robbery victim when the man fought back.
"I think I should have went to prison," said Aaron Lamont Jackson, who received probation. "I deserved it."
Many cases resulted in deferred adjudication, in which the defendant admits guilt and a judge agrees there is enough evidence to convict. But the judge defers a decision on whether to convict, pending the outcome of the probation.
Experts say defendants favor deferred adjudication because there's no conviction record if they successfully complete probation. Prosecutors like it because if defendants violate their probation, it opens up a full range of sentences, including life in prison.
Prosecutors will offer deferred adjudication when they fear losing at trial because of weak physical evidence or a lack of eyewitnesses. And sometimes they admit gambling that the defendant will violate his or her probation and face harsh sentences.
Defense lawyers say they often try to create sympathy for the killer or paint the murder victims as unsavory types who had it coming. Jury sympathy for the killer is important because in Texas, unlike most states, juries determine sentences. That's the main reason for the disparity in sentences for convicted killers, prosecutors and defense attorneys said.
Defense attorneys prefer jury sentencing, because it's more likely they can get lenient terms for their clients. Dallas lawyer Scottie Allen secured probation for four murder defendants, more than any other lawyer in the newspaper's study. He said judicial sentencing "would scare me to death."
"We ask a lot of these people who don't deal with this every day," Allen said of jurors. "We educate them in 45 minutes on sometimes very sophisticated legal issues and expect them to go through that process and set their feelings aside. I just don't think that's realistic."
Kristi Sheffy was a forewoman for a jury that gave probation to a father who murdered his son. She said sympathy for the father played a role in the jury's decision to grant probation. After the trial, she said, she went back to work embarrassed to tell colleagues what had happened.
"I'm one of the ones who in other conversations would say, 'Death row is too long ... Let's find them guilty and take them out back and hang them like they used to,' " she said.
"But when you take it one by one, it's never black and white."
The Morning News said its findings were based on a yearlong review of thousands of police and court records, as well as interviews with more than 200 people connected to the cases, including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, killers and survivors.
The newspaper began investigating the probation-for-murder phenomenon last year after writing about a man who pleaded guilty to shooting an unarmed prostitute in the back and was given deferred-adjudication probation.
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus
“Defense lawyers say they often try to create sympathy for the killer or paint the murder victims as unsavory types who had it coming. Jury sympathy for the killer is important because in Texas, unlike most states, juries determine sentences. That’s the main reason for the disparity in sentences for convicted killers, prosecutors and defense attorneys said.”
I wonder if that means what I think it means.
Whoops. Sunday morning screw up.
Here is the link.
Please fix when you get a chance.
From the Side Bar of the Article:
STUDY ALSO FOUND
Most murderers who received probation were racial minorities who killed other racial minorities.
About half the defendants who received probation were poor enough to qualify for court-appointed lawyers.
More than one-third of the killers went to jail after violating their probation.
At least three killers who received probation went on to attack innocent people.
During that time, Dallas County has put more than twice as many murderers on probation as it has sent to death.
However, the above sentence from the article may not be comparing apples to apples as in Texas not all murderers are elgible for the death sentence [capital murder]. In fact the death sentence is fairly restrictive in its application across the range of options.
Idiot jurors have a lot do with it, too; it's not just the liberal judges.
More proof that you can’t trust government to do anything right.
Even if the judge had no sympathy for the murder victim, he should have given the perp some jail time for butchering the English language.
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