Pubdate: Fri, 22 Jan 1999
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 1999 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Contact:  David A. Carter, Houston


Susan Gill Vardon's Jan. 8 article "A jury's duty" was very good. In the
article, District Judge Bob McGrath said that juries already have the power
to rule that a defendant broke the law but give probation instead of jail
time. This is true in many cases. However, as more laws are legislated to
carry mandatory minimum sentences, the law itself effectively and
efficiently removes the jury's right to show mercy.

The judge and jury above all, having heard the facts and circumstances of
each case, should retain this right at all times. Several federal judges
have complained of mandatory minimums and the inherent injustice they cause;
indeed, several have resigned over the issue, refusing to continue to
participate in the cycle of injustice. Restore jurors' right to show mercy,
and the need for jury-rights activists may become moot.

When mandatory minimums are repealed across the board, I will be ready to
accept McGrath's argument. Until then, the rule of justice advised by the
law seems preferable to the rule of the letter of the law.

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