That seems to be the way it plays out in Florida, as yet another appalling self defense case is showing.
You may know about Florida's 10-20-life mandatory minimum sentence from the story of Orville Wollard, who fired a gun in his own house (no one was injured) to scare off his daughter's abusive and threatening boyfriend. Wollard is currently serving a 20-year mandatory minimum for this action -- a sentence his judge found unreasonable.
Now comes the case of Marissa Alexander, a 31 year-old mom who fired a gun (again, no one injured) to ward off a threatening husband with a history of abusive behavior.
FAMM comments on the Alexander story and provides more details here. A sampling:
“A lot of attention has been paid to Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law and far too little to the state’s extreme, one-size-fits-all sentencing laws,” Ms. Stewart said. “Less than three years ago, Orville Lee Wollard, a lawful gun owner, fired a warning shot in his home to chase off a young man who had been abusing his teenage daughter. After Wollard rejected a plea deal and a jury rejected Wollard’s self-defense claim, a Florida judge was forced by the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing law for assault to send Wollard to prison for 20 years. Mr. Wollard’s judge stated that he thought the sentence was excessive, but said his hands were tied.
“In the coming weeks, Marissa Alexander, who was also found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, will likely be sentenced to the same 20-year mandatory minimum prison term. While reasonable people can disagree on whether Mr. Wollard or Ms. Alexander deserve any prison time for their conduct, no one can honestly believe that these were the types of cases the legislature had in mind when it passed the 10-20-Life automatic gun sentence,” Stewart said.Mandatory minimums are the worst possible sentencing option for self defense cases, which are powder-kegs of explosive and sensitive facts and circumstances. When legislators create a mandatory minimum sentence, they can't foresee all the unusual, extraordinary, or even bizarre scenarios that might come up in a self-defense case and make that sentence downright irrational.
But judges get a front-row seat to the action -- they learn the whole story. In self-defense cases -- as in all cases -- judges should have as much flexibility as possible at sentencing to make the punishment fit the facts and the defendant involved. Anything short of that is a recipe for absurdity and injustice.