Friday, February 21, 2014
A Georgia man may no longer be a Georgia man after the Eleventh Circuit upheld his banishment from nearly the entire state. According to the AP, his story begins:
Thompson was sentenced to eight years in prison after he fired a round from a high-powered rifled into the brick wall of a suburban Atlanta house where his stepmother's sister lived. No one was hurt, but the family said they were frightened.
His sentence was eventually cut in half by a review panel, but a condition of his probation banned him from living everywhere in Georgia except Ware County, near the Florida line and about 250 miles from his family. After a subsequent arrest on a probation violation and more time in jail, his living restrictions were modified and essentially banned him from living just about anywhere in the state north of Macon.
I had thought banishment was a relic of the past, but I now see Georgia is into the whole banishment thing (e.g. here, here, and here). Apparently, D.C.'s okay with it too. After D.C. banished a tree-climbing protester, Slate's Brian Palmer took a look at the seemingly antiquated punishment in the U.S. He found:
A Washington, D.C. judge ordered a man to stay out of the District of Columbia as a condition of his release from jail on Tuesday. Rives Miller Grogan was arrested for climbing a tree near the Capitol as part of a protest during President Obama’s inauguration. Can you be banished from a state?
Probably not. Sixteen states have constitutional provisions prohibiting banishment, and appeals courts in many others have outlawed the practice. Although it remains on the books in a handful of states—the Tennessee Constitution permits exile, and Maryland’s Constitution specificallyprescribes banishment as a punishment for corruption—appeals courts usually overturnsentences of exile. There has been only one recent case of banishment from a state: In 2000, a Kentucky judge banished a domestic abuser from the state for one year. (The case never reached the state’s high court.) The District of Columbia has no constitution, and its statutes don’t mention banishment, so the legality of Grogan’s exile is unclear. Judges typically get wider discretion in prescribing conditions of bail than in sentencing, but there is a strong trend toward invalidating interstate banishment under any circumstances.
In the view of many legal scholars, the permissibility of banishment depends on its geographic breadth. Banishment from the country is decidedly unconstitutional, at least for U.S. citizens. Chief Justice Earl Warren described denationalization of army deserters as “a form of punishment more primitive than torture.” Banishment from areas around schools or day care facilities, however, is an increasingly popular punishment for sex crimes. Gang members are occasionally banished from their home towns to keep them from bad influences. Appeals courts sometimes approve these sanctions as long as they don’t result in a functional banishment. For example, a Georgia law prohibiting sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a bus stop was declared unconstitutional in 2007. Legislators made clear that they intended to exile sex offenders from the state, and the restrictions left virtually nowhere to live.
This Georgia fellow, however, can't come within 1,000 feet of his family's home, on which he purportedly depends. According to the AP's story:
A psychiatrist has testified that Thompson is mentally ill and mentally incapable of functioning without his parents and support system in metro Atlanta.
"We are disappointed that the court did not reach the key issues," said Thompson's attorney Gerald Weber, who joined the case at the appeal level. "Thompson is banished from the very places where his support network, family and health care are located."
Thompson said he thinks the banishment is ridiculous given that other convicted offenders — including rapists, murderers and child molesters — are often released from prison without a banishment condition on their probation.
"I've done my time, and I've paid my debt," he said Wednesday. "If I can live in other communities, I should be able to live anywhere. All they have to do is issue a restraining order."
Georgia judges cannot banish convicted criminals from the state, but the Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the practice of banishing them from living in all but one of the state's 159 counties.
(h/t How Appealing)