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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Newland Finds Gag Sentence "Tolerable"; Judge Delaney's Explanation Still Incomplete

I am pleased to see that Bob Newland isn't letting his year-long pot-silence sentence get him down. He says in a Decorum Forum post yesterday that he finds his sentence "tolerable."

I am also pleased to see Kevin Woster land an interview with Judge Jack Delaney to talk about that constitutionally questionable sentence. Alas, I remain less than satisfied with the judge's explanation of how this particular restriction of a guilty felon's rights passes constitutional muster.

His Honor makes a reasonable argument: Delaney tells Woster he wanted to impose a sentence that would "sting." And I'll agree, a punishment should feel like punishment. It should be sufficiently unpleasant to the convict to make him think thrice about engaging in the same criminal activity again.

But I can think of all sorts of "stinging" punishments—hang a guy upside for a month, cut off his left foot, force him to divorce his wife, deny him the right to attend church services—that might get the convict's attention but might not pass constitutional muster.

Judge Delaney is right that we deny criminals a wide array of rights as their punishment. But that doesn't logically establish that we can deny criminals any right we choose. Some rights are inalienable, even for the worst criminals. And denying a convict the right to protest the law under which the state has convicted him still feels like one of those rights.

Just curious: How does Newland's sentence for marijuana possession compare with the sentences we dish out for drunk driving, a crime that poses an immediate threat to public safety? Have we banned any drunk drivers from arguing publicly that our DUI laws are too strict?


  1. I would hope that someone shine a light on Stan Adelstein's inexcusable bullshit comment (and lie) on the RC Journal's comments on Woster's story.

  2. This case is another indication that SD judges may have too many options to be tough and not enough options to be fair and act in ways beneficial to society.

    I sort of thought that this was the judges idea since as his comment here indicates, Newland is not reticent about expressing himself or advocating for positions he supports.

    Most likely SD has given the judges power, the unfortunate thing is that some are not really the kind of people who should have been given such nearly unchecked power.

    Delany may be a good judge. I really don't know. The case should definitely stimulate discussion about a lot of other things judges do.


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