Mandatory Minimums

One Georgia Judge Takes on Mandatory Minimums by Informing Jury Before Conviction

Reminds prosecutors that juries are supposed to serve as a check on government power


Recognizing that the juries are supposed to have power? How droll.
Credit: steakpinball / photo on flickr

We all know that juries don't really decide criminal cases on all the facts. They decide cases on all the facts the state allows them to consider. Sometimes the potential sentences of certain convictions are among the facts the government (prosecutors especially) want to conceal. A Fulton County Superior Court judge in Georgia has apparently had enough of keeping her juries in the dark about mandatory minimum sentences. Wendy Shoob decided to fill them in before they went into deliberations. From the Fully Informed Jury Association:

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob recently took the all too uncommon but highly commendable step of informing jurors of the mandatory minimum punishment she would be forced to impose on the defendant if they convicted him of armed robbery. In this case, the defendant was facing a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted of armed robbery (with an air gun) because he had three prior felonies: one for possession of a screwdriver (yes, really), another for receiving stolen property, and a third for aggravated assault during a jail riot.

The prosecution tried to get her to dump the case. She refused, saying that she had the right to express her opinion about mandatory minimum sentences and that the jury "should be informed when their verdict automatically imposes, by law, a mandatory sentence." She also pointed out that jury power over sentencing is supposed to serve as "a check on overreaching government."

The jury subsequently found the defendant guilty of a lesser charge that sent him to prison for 30 years, 10 of which must be served without the possibility of parole.