CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, July 22, 2007

CrimProf William Dunlap Shares Strange Sentences Research

DunlapFrom Quinnipiac University School of Law CrimProf William Dunlap has done research on a Texas judge "who seems to make a career of handing down sentences designed to embarrass offenders."  He shared his research as part of an article concerning a Prosecutor who requested that a Defendant be required to take out an ad saying that she falsely accused a man of a sexual assault.

In one case Judge Ted Poe ordered a man who had killed two people while driving drunk to carry a sign that said, "I killed 2 people while I was driving drunk on Westheimer." The man had to carry the sign in front of high schools and bars once a month for 10 years as part of his probation and a reduced prison sentence, Dunlap said.

In another case, Poe sentenced a man convicted of domestic abuse to publicly apologize to his wife on the courthouse steps in front of reporters and photographers.

The best known case of a shaming punishment came out of a California court in 2003. Shawn Gementera was convicted of mail theft and in exchange for a shorter prison sentence the judge ordered him to stand outside a post office with a sign that read: "I stole mail. This is my punishment."

Gementera appealed the case to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeals court upheld the decision, and the Supreme Court refused to take the case.

"In the few appeals that I am aware of, sentences like these have been upheld because they are not severe enough to violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment," Dunlap said. "They may be unusual, but to most people's minds they are hardly cruel. Most are never appealed in the first place because the defendants agreed to them. It's better than going to jail."

Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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