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Guilty Man’s Sentence Reversed Because of Inconsistencies in Court Proceedings

Social Injustice

Guilty Man’s Sentence Reversed Because of Inconsistencies in Court Proceedings

If there’s one commonality between all people throughout all time, it’s that we tend to make stupid decisions every now and then. Just reading that last sentence probably brings to mind something in your past you’d rather not have done.

Unfortunately for some of us, our stupid choices can land us on the wrong side of the law. In those cases, the best thing a person can do most of the time is to own up to what they’ve done, throw themselves at the mercy of the court, and do everything that’s asked of them. But as one man would find out, even that isn’t always enough…

Dumb Move

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Alfred Scott had made a boneheaded choice and, unfortunately for him, got caught in the process. In 2017, he was arrested for a first-time marijuana distribution offense. He owned up to what he’d done and plead guilty to the charges.

Rock Bottom

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It was a low point in his life to be sure. Not only had this been the Florida man’s first brush with the law, he was also unemployed the time. It woke Alfred up to the fact that he was headed in a bad direction and needed to turn his life around.

Making a Change

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In between the arrest and the trial, Alfred started to look for a job in earnest for two reasons. For one thing, if he managed to avoid jail time, he’d be able to gain some control over his life and start to move things in the right direction.

Showing Improvement

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There was also the fact that if the judge in his case saw that he was working to make something of himself, he would be more likely to show some leniency in his sentencing. Thankfully, Alfred’s hard work would bear fruit.

Landing a Job

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Alfred had lined himself up a job at a local Home Depot. He’d arranged for his start date to be after his day in court because, after all, he couldn’t guarantee that he would be a free man afterwards.

Showing Mercy

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When he informed Judge Russell Healey of the situation, it seemed that his idea had worked. Judge Healey had initially been planning to sentence Alfred to 90 days in county jail for selling marijuana, but when hearing of his efforts to turn his life around, he decided to show some mercy.

One Condition

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Judge Healey said he would just give Alfred probation and let him off without any jail time but there would be a condition: “that he gets a job, full-time job, or show at least five applications per week until he gets a job.”

Falling Through

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It seemed like things had worked out about as well as they could for Alfred on that day. Unfortunately, Alfred’s probation officer later informed the judge that Home Depot had rescinded the job offer, likely because of the drug conviction.

Doing His Best

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However, according to the probation officer, Alfred had been “complying with everything I asked him to do.” It also seemed like his intent to turn his life around through hard work was more than just a way to stay out of jail.

Overtime

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Not only had Alfred landed himself a full-time job at the arts and crafts store Michael’s, he had picked up a part-time job at McDonald’s as well. In total, he was putting in 60 hours of work a week, building himself a better life through hard work.

Odd Reaction

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You would imagine that Judge Healey would be happy to hear that the young man was taking full advantage of the second chance he’d been given. That’s why it came as something of a shock to Alfred when he learned that the Judge wasn’t all that happy with him.

Probation Violation

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In Judge Healey’s eyes, Alfred had violated the terms of his probation because he hadn’t gotten the job at Home Depot. All of his hard work did nothing to sway the judge, who said he shouldn’t have offered any lenience to begin with. “That will teach me a lesson,” he said.

Jail Time

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Judge Healey sent Alfred to jail for 90 days, the original length of time he was contemplating before the work-for-probation offer he’d given. Alfred thought this was entirely unfair and appealed the decision.

Inconsistent Language

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When the case came before the appellate court, they saw things the same way. Judge Scott Makar ruled that Judge Healey had been inconsistent about the particulars of the probation terms he’d offered to Alfred.

Unclear Instructions

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It was true that at some points, Judge Healey had specified that Alfred had to get a job at Home Depot. However, at other points in the trial, he had said that Alfred simply needed to get a “full-time job.”

Everything in His Power

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Regardless, Judge Makar wrote that Judge Healy could not prove that Alfred had “willfully violated” the probation given that he’d done everything in his power to secure the Home Depot job and, when that fell through, two others. As a result, Judge Makar overturned the decision.

History of Harshness

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This wasn’t the first time an appellate court ruled that Judge Healey had violated a defendant’s rights during sentencing. It also hadn’t been the first time he’d handed down what many would describe as an unreasonable sentence for a minor offense.

Danger to Society

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In one case where a woman appeared before him for a shoplifting charge, Judge Healey deemed Marlena Woods a “danger to society.” That determination sent her to state prison for a year and a half.

Not His Call

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But for one thing, the woman had only stolen $17.19 worth of food from a Walmart. An appellate court also found that Judge Healey had violated Woods’ right to a jury trial, since it is a jury and not a judge who should determine if a person is a danger to society and thus, worthy of incarceration in a state prison.

Pyrrhic Victory

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That ruling unfortunately did little to help Woods, though. By the time the court had come to the decision that her rights had been violated, she’d already served out the entirety of her sentence in state prison.

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