Monday, August 06, 2007

Judge Hendren Again

Judge Jimm Hendren has made another ruling that both I and likely Rogers Judge Doug Schrantz find perplexing. You may recall that Hendren is the judge whose disgraceful actions in the Hollis Wayne Fincher case have drawn the ire of this keyboard. Some defenders of Hendren have tried to argue that no judge lets juries hear questions of law. If so, this is a recent occurrence in our Republic, like so many of the recent erosions of our rights and liberties. Historically, juries were able to decide on matters of both fact and law.

To underline how fast the bad guys are tossing our protections against government in the trash can, I would point out to you that in my lifetime I am aware of another local judge, former Circuit Judge Mahlon Gibson, who was known to have allowed arguments in court that amounted to a straight-up effort at jury nullification. Even though American and local recent history say otherwise, Hendren's defenders make the ignorant and absurd claim that "Judges never let juries hear questions of law and it is not the way we do things in this country".

I understand that the system from the top down may be applying pressure on judges to remove defendant's rights to make constitutional defenses to a jury, but that does not mean that a righteous judge has to yield to such pressure. Indeed, what makes one a good public servant is resisting such temptations to "go along to get along". Yielding to pressure from on high without question leads from polite society to Aschwits.

That brings us to this latest case. One Mindy Gayle Offutt pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance. Rogers Judge Doug Schrantz gave her a 30 day jail sentence, but agreed to suspend it if she would attend a 12-step program. Offutt found the program had religious underpinnings and sued Judge Schrantz. Her lawyer said in the suit, "An individual should be allowed to decide whether or not to accept a particular religion, or whether to accept any religion at all," and "A government authority is prohibited by the First and 14th Amendment from forcing any person to participate in any religious activity."

Hendren dismissed the suit, but instructed Judge Schrantz to change the sentence. Schrantz did not want the suit dismissed. He wanted a ruling. Now Offutt gets the sentence suspended regardless of her attendance at the 12-step program.

Look, I am a strong defender of freedom of conscience. The whole idea of "coerced Christianity" strikes me as ridiculous. But Offutt (and Hendren) are wrong here and Judge Schrantz is right. Offutt did the crime. Then sentence imposed was a fair one for that crime. It was her choice whether she wanted to do the 12-step program or not. If she didn't, she should do the time. All this ruling will do is take away the option of a judge using that twelve step program for others. People who don't mind acknowledging a need for God to deal with their drug (or other) problems have just lost an opportunity to get help. Man's need for God is a reality. We were created with a God-shaped hole in our souls that some try to fill with other things like drugs. Government is not "imposing religion" on anyone when they offer an option to convicted criminals which recognizes the truth that man is a spiritual creature. The modernist view of man as an ape wearing trousers has not met man's true needs.

The government continues to act to drive any connection to faith in God out of our society, and Hendren's decision is now a part of that effort.


Blogger Eric and Heather said...

Unfortunately, you are a bit off in your analysis of the role of judge and jury. Traditionally, throughout common law traditions in England and here, the judge is arbiter of law and the jury the finder of fact. (See Cannon v. Miller, B&0 RR v. Pokora, and nearly all cases in American history). You argument that juries are to hear matters of law is simply not accurate. Sorry.

1:10 PM, November 18, 2009  
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1:50 AM, January 27, 2010  
Blogger Stephen said...

Ok we're going to lock you up for 30 days and it will probably destroy your life (you'll loose your job, home, etc) or we're going to force you to go to a religious group that statistically does more harm than good. How is that an option for any discerning adult?
If you give anybody the option between jail and religion it is unconstitutional. It would have been different if there were nonreligious groups available that work with facts not superstition that she was given the choice to attend.
A judge cannot say, sorry we trampled your constructional rights you now have 30 days in jail.

4:08 PM, November 29, 2010  

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