Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Judge's Reasoning

I have been in courts where I thought the judge was behaving automatically, not really listening to the evidence, and making decisions more on the basis of preconceived notions than of the facts at hand. I was in court yesterday listening to a judge blather on about old stories, bemoaning the unfairness of The System, and seemingly having a good time that such a crowd was obligated to hang on his every word. I don't think he came to a bad decision in the case, but there was something unseemly in his manner.

Yet most judges whose courts I have been in have been thoughtful and attentive. They seemed to try hard to get it right, not only in appearance and on technicalities, but on overall matters of justice. That is a difficult, perhaps impossible, balance to achieve. Judge McHugh added comments to his denial of William Flynn's petition for suspension of sentence. The Flynn case remains interesting around here. He was the shooter in Pamela Smart's arranging to have her husband killed - a high school boy besotted by love, or lust, for a young assistant teacher at his school. The case attracted national attention, and for a decade afterward there were groups of odd women who continued to protest on Pame's behalf, believing she was being unfairly treated and more a victim than a criminal. I never understood that. Pame was cute but displayed no other redeeming qualities. She acted entitled both during her trial and in prison afterwards, expecting special treatment because she was a celebrity. She was eventually moved to another prison outside of NH for her own safety from other prisoners.

Back to Mr. Flynn. The judge's comments here are quite thoughtful, addressing both the general matters of justice and the specifics of this case. I don't know if he reached the correct decision, but I appreciate the care and thought he put into it. He covers a lot of ground in a short space.


Unknown said...

Tough call, but I think he made the right one.

I often wonder about those who call themselves "rehabilitated," but are trying to weasel out of their sentence. If they truly are rehabilitated, or have "found God" as the case sometimes is, shouldn't they instead insist on being fully accountable for their crime?

Dubbahdee said...

This is a fascinating document. I remember serving on the jury for an armed robbery case in Michigan. I was dismissed as an alternate prior to deliberations. I was actually relieved to no longer hold the life of the defendant in my hands. The circumstances pointed strongly to the guilt of the defendant but the evidence was not incontrovertible. I was not sure how I would have voted.
Clearly, this judge is quite concerned with the spirit of the law as much as the letter. If this is an example of how our justice system works overall, I am greatly cheered.

Anonymous said...

I have known Judge McHugh since, well, before he was a judge. A man of good humor and common sense, I have always had respect for him as a judge. Interestingly, he has a reputation in the bar as somewhat of a "liberal", so the decision in this case flies in the face of that label. Anyhow, he is a good man and it appears that he came to the right conclusion on this one.