As was pointed out in an earlier blog post, the New York Times Magazine ran a powerful and moving piece on "restorative justice" surrounding a case here in Florida. The crime at issue in the case was murder, of course, and while the circumstances surrounding the crime were perhaps not as gruesome or aggravating as could be imagined, they were appalling and heartbreaking nonetheless.
In between gathering my composure in the face of the raw emotion that jumps off the page, and trying to avoid thinking about what I might do if I found myself in the almost unfathomable situation in which these parents found themselves, I found one part of the story particularly interesting.
The author notes that the prosecutor in this case, Leon County Assistant State Attorney Jack Campbell, charged the defendant with first-degree murder. Here in Florida, that charge carries a mandatory life sentence (it also potentially carries the death penalty).
However, as the piece notes:
As he always does with victims’ families, [Campbell] explained to the [victim's family] the details of the criminal-justice process, including the little-advertised fact that the state attorney has broad discretion to depart from the state’s mandatory sentences. As the representative of the state and the person tasked with finding justice for [the victim] , he could reduce charges and seek alternative sentences. Technically, he told the Grosmaires, “if I wanted to do five years for manslaughter, I can do that.”In this case, the victim's family worked with the offender, the offender's family, clergy and the prosecutor to determine a sentence that was best for everyone, and they decided on 20 years in prison followed by ten years of probation. That, of course, is different from the life sentence mandated for murder by Florida Statutes. In explaining the process behind determining the appropriate sentence in this case, Assistant State Attorney Campbell said:
“I think the ultimate decision on punishment should be made based on cool reflection of the facts and the evidence in the case."
We agree. And if that principle - we can call it "The Campbell Standard" - is applicable in a first-degree murder case, surely it's applicable in other areas as well.
FAMM Florida Project Director