defense blog

information and views on criminal defense law

The veteran criminal defense law firm of L. D. Murrell provides additional information about current topics, trends and news in criminal defense cases and fields on their blog, Defense Blog. Sign-up to receive updates and new information on criminal defense law.

Palm Beach Post: Letter to the Editor

01/12/2011 - L.D. Murrell, P.A. - Link to This Entry

On December 10, 2010, the Palm Beach Post wrote the following article:  "Judge Left System Crumbled 'Cookie Monster' Gets Second Undeserved Break".  See article in the link below:

www.palmbeachpost.com/opinion/editorials/judge-left-system-crumbled-cookie-monster-gets-second-1107975.html

In response to the article, Mr. Murrell wrote the following letter to the editor:

December 10, 2010

To the Editor
Palm Beach Post
P.O. Box 24700
West Palm Beach, FL 33416-4700
 
Re:      “Judge Left System Crumbled”
 
Dear Sir:
 
On December 9th you published an editorial that consisted almost entirely of a brutal personal attack of Judge Amy Smith. You accused her of being arrogant and incompetent. You also implied that she is racist. All of this because Judge Smith chose not to sentence a twenty-year old offender to prison.
 
A criminal circuit court judge in Palm Beach County probably makes at least a dozen sentencing decisions every week, maybe more. Additionally, they rule on pretrial motions every day, violation of probation hearings and jury trials. But your editor chose one decision out of hundreds made every week to describe Judge Smith as unfit for service. All because she dared to show lenience to someone accused of armed robbery and kidnapping. One has to ask, did the editor even read the police report? The female defendant was an accomplice to two armed men who robbed a drug dealer. The defendant, who was never armed, confessed almost immediately upon being interviewed by police and identified her co-defendants.
 
Running an editorial page requires some responsibility. That should include the responsibility to be fair. Reasonable people may disagree with Judge Smith’s decision. However, condemning her as an incompetent judge based on one sentencing decision seems grossly unfair. Did you make any effort to determine how often she is reversed on appeal? That would be a far more objective measure of her ability and willingness to follow the law. Did you check the local Bar polls to see how she is rated by lawyers who appear before her?
 
Judges should not be immune from criticism, but when was the last time you criticized a judge for being too harsh in sentencing? Less than two months ago, Judge Smith sentenced a 21 year-old first offender to ten years in prison for computer pornography. The Post offered not one word of criticism.  Does the Post only believe in a free and independent judiciary so long as that independent judiciary imposes sentence the way the Post deems fit?
 
Donnie Murrell
West Palm Beach