“Dear Satan and Your Whore”
One of my biggest challenges as a judge is to quickly differentiate between a person with an “attitude,” or a person who is eccentric, or a person who has mental health issues. This is not always easy.
If the person “cops” an “attitude,” I am very fast and firm in putting them in their place and letting them know who is in charge. If the person is eccentric, I just ignore their quirkiness. If the person has a mental problem, I immediately back off, slow down, and try to become extremely patient and understanding.
I was sentencing a misdemeanor defendant at the conclusion of the jury trial. When he addressed me at the sentencing hearing he “copped a major attitude.” I got angry. In order to get his attention, I sentenced him to 90 days in jail, which was harsher that I normally would have imposed.
The next day, I reconsidered my sentence and decided I needed to reduce the sentence to 30 days in jail. Despite the defendant’s attitude and hostility toward me, the case was not “worth” 90 days. However, before I could modify the sentence I got distracted by the volume of other cases, and I forgot.
A week later, I received a post card signed by the defendant. He actually used his true name. It was addressed to “Judge Brett London and Judge S. J.” It began, “Dear Satan and Your Whore.” He continued with, “Suck my Jewish d—” and other epithets. He signed his true name at the end with the title, “King David. King of the Jews.”
It was obvious that I had misjudged the defendant. He didn’t have an attitude problem. He had a mental problem. No person in their right mind would send such a post card to a judge, let alone sign it. The post card also reminded me that I had forgotten to reduce the defendant’s sentence.
Toying a little with the Jewish criminal defense attorney’s mind, whom I knew very well, I sent a letter to him with the post card enclosed. I wrote, “Enclosed is a post card I received from your client. Please read. I have modified his sentence from 90 days in jail to 30 days.”
I gave no explanation for my modification, which left the defense attorney bewildered. The defendant threatens the judge and the judge reduces the sentence to one third? This doesn’t make sense.
Later, the confused attorney asked me what was going on. I explained my decision to his satisfaction.
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