This is the time when court challenges are heard on propositions for the November ballot, and as we’ve said before, some of them (the propositions) are troubling. One of those would give judges more discretion in sentencing.
Judges are put on the bench to make fair decisions, and certainly most of them do. However, stories are seen that there are cases, mostly in other states, where judges for whatever reason will settle for hardly any punishment for certain types of crimes because of their personal beliefs. And for the most part, crimes have victims.
Many criminals have had difficult circumstances in their lives, and compassion should be available. It generally is, especially for those who are not repeat offenders. However, Arizona lawmakers put restrictions on judges’ sentences way back in 1978. Then in 1993, “truth in sentencing” mandated that convicted felons serve at least 85% of their sentences.
The proposition, called “Second Chances, Rehabilitation and Public Safety Act,” would give more discretion in what are defined as “nondangerous offenses.” However, attorney Brett Johnson said in opposing the proposition that some of the offenses referred to are “incredibly dangerous.”
A court challenge filed against the proposition says the petitions signed by thousands of Arizonans were very misleading. The matter is likely to go to the Arizona Supreme Court before the third week in August, when ballots are due to be printed.
Those suing are Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, a victim of domestic violence and two parents whose children were murdered. The latter three are: a woman who was paralyzed by a shooter hired by her former husband; a mother whose son was robbed and murdered prior to “truth in sentencing,” and none of three attackers served more than three years in prison; and a former police officer whose daughter was murdered by a gang member as part of his initiation.
If this measure does pass muster and gets on the ballot, voters are likely to hear from those people. They should be ready to listen.