A Judge is under fire for sentencing a defendant who admitted to Rape to a 45 day jail sentence with probation. The judge from Texas Judge Jeanine Howard based her sentence in part on what she called the promiscuous nature of the victim and the fact that the defendant was not your typical sex offender. The media criticism of the judge has been on the fact that she denigrated the victim when the defendant admitted the Rape occurred. The story was reported on CNN in its Justice Section.
The Judge’s sentence suggests that she may not have believed there was a factual basis for the plea. The Judge should have declined to accept the plea; if a defendant admits to an offense, which the Court accepts, the facts have been determined and at that point the Court should not minimize the offense in imposing sentence and certainly should not be critical of the victim.
A recent case in the Attleboro District Court demonstrates what should have occurred in the Young case. Prosecutors sought a one year jail sentence while the defendant sought probation in what is known as a defendant capped plea, meaning that if the court exceeds the defendant’s proposed sentence, the plea can be withdrawn. The defendant was charged with a domestic assault and battery. The Judge in the Attleboro case refused to impose either sentence, ruling that he would give the defendant a two year jail term based on the nature of the facts.
In accepting a plea, a judge has a duty to ensure that the elements of the offense can be met. Judge Howard should have either refused to accept the plea or recused herself from the case. As a criminal defense lawyer in Attleboro, judges sometimes reject plea offers when the court feel as though there is not a sufficient factual basis for the plea or when the court believes the sentence recommended is inappropriate based on the offense charged.