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Teen Sentenced To Attend Church In Order To Avoid Jail Time

 
 
firefly
 
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 09:56 am
This case raises a lot of controversial issues...
Quote:
Oklahoma Teen Pleads Guilty to Manslaughter, Sentenced to Ten Years of Church
Neetzan Zimmerman

A judge in Oklahoma who sentenced a teenager charged with first-degree manslaughter to spend time in church in lieu of prison said he did so in order to save the boy's life.

Oklahoma District Court Judge Mike Norman has handed down similar sentences in the past, but never for someone as young as Tyler Alred, 17, or for a crime as serious.

Alred pleaded guilty in August to first-degree manslaughter after a car accident last year claimed the life of his friend John Luke Dum. Alred, the driver, was 16 at the time, and under the influence of alcohol.

Prior to sentencing last week, Alred apologized to Dum's family and embraced Dum's father. "At that moment, it sure became a reality to me that I would sentence this boy to church," Judge Norman told ABC News.

Alred was ultimately handed a maximum 10-year deferred sentence, along with a set of requirements that must be followed in order to avoid prison time.

The conditions include graduating from high school and welding school; submitting to regular drug tests and wearing a drug and alcohol bracelet; and attending a church of Alred's choosing once a week for a period of 10 years.

"I told my preacher I thought I led more people to Jesus than he had but, then again, more of my people have amnesia," Norman said. "They soon forget once they get out of jail."
http://gawker.com/5961843/oklahoma-teen-pleads-guilty-to-manslaughter-sentenced-to-ten-years-of-church


Since when is it the job of judges to lead people to Jesus?

Quote:
Oklahoma Judge Defends Sentencing Tyler Alred, Teenager, To Church Even If It's Not Legal
Religion News Service | By Greg Horton Posted: 11/20/2012

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (RNS) A district judge in Oklahoma who sentenced a 17-year-old boy to 10 years of church attendance is standing by his sentence as the right thing to do -- even if it may not have been the constitutional thing to do.

Judge Mike Norman gave Tyler Alred a 10-year deferred sentence for DUI manslaughter. Alred was driving a Chevrolet pickup in the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 2011 when he hit a tree. His passenger and friend, 16-year old John Dum, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The church requirement is just one of the conditions that Norman placed on Alred's deferred sentence. The judge also ordered him to finish high school and complete welding school. Both Alred's attorney and the victim's family agreed to the terms of the sentence.

Norman said the church requirement is something he has done in the past, especially in child support cases. He has never done it for a manslaughter charge.

Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU, said the requirement to attend church is a "clear violation of the First Amendment."

"It's my understanding that this judge has recommended church in previous sentences, and I believe that goes too far, as well," Kiesel said. "This, however, actually making it a condition of a sentence, is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment."

Norman said he didn't believe his sentence would pass a legal challenge -- but he doesn't believe either side will seek an appeal.

"Both families were satisfied with the decision," Norman said in an interview. "I talked to the district attorney before I passed sentence. I did what I felt like I needed to do."

In order to challenge the constitutionality of the church attendance requirement, an individual or organization must show that it has legal standing to do so. Kiesel said the ACLU is considering what options they have.

"If the court or the district attorney attempts to enforce this requirement, we will look at possible ways to intervene," Kiesel said. "I know the boy agreed to this, but is someone facing a judge in open court really making a voluntary decision? Government officials should not be involved in what is a very personal choice."

The Rev. Bruce Prescott, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he is sure the sentence doesn't pass constitutional muster, but he is equally worried about the spiritual ramifications.

"I'm a minister," Prescott said. "I want people to go to church, but it's not helpful for a judge to sentence someone to church. What will the judge do if the young man changes his affiliation in the next few years? Will he be allowed to switch to a mosque or become an atheist? Religion is not a tool of the state, and it's certainly not for the state to use as a tool of rehabilitation."

Norman said he has received phone calls on both sides of his decision.

"One gentleman from Missouri left a message on my phone. He said judges can't order people to go to church. People are calling from all around the country. I live in the Bible Belt, though. The Bible is still alive down here; churches are still open. I'm sure those people are right, but they're going to have to do what they want to do."

Kiesel said he is especially concerned in this case because the judge admits to making a decision he knows is not legal.

"The Constitution is not exercised at your discretion," he said. "You take an oath to uphold it all the time, not just sometimes."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/20/tyler-alred-sentenced-to-church-oklahoma-judge-defends_n_2162593.html


What do you think of the judge's sentence?

Is sparing this teen jail time warranted?

Would an alternate sentence be more appropriate?

Should judges be allowed to hand down decisions that they know are not legal?



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Type: Discussion • Score: 11 • Views: 9,900 • Replies: 106

 
PUNKEY
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 10:14 am
I have a difficult time in approving some "community service" ordered by judges. I have seen celebrities and sports stars ordered to put on "talks" to kids, interact in sports activities in schools, etc for drug use, drunk driving, spousal abuse, etc. and I don't like it. It's all fake contrition. (and they usually get a lot of publicity for it)

I suppose I take in account that the boy is in Oaklahoma. I imagine there are outreach centers where he could put in time, or do some kind of volunteer work for the elderly. But to require only the attendance to worship services is probably not even legal.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  4  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 10:21 am
@firefly,
Weve shown hat, in many cases we only create better criminals with lengthy jail time. Then when we release the kids (now adults) from their incarceration, we dont let them participate in much of what our society allows and we minimize their career options.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 10:27 am
@firefly,
If the kid and his family agreed to it I don't really have a problem with it, other than that the kid should get to pick the church he wants to go to instead of having to go to the judge's church.

I wonder how the family of the kid who died feels about it.

I'm fine with the fact that the kid didn't end up in jail. He had a terrible and tragic lapse in judgement and I imagine he's learned his lesson about drinking and driving.

I'll admit that the "jail or church" choice of punishment kind of cracks me up.
0 Replies
 
Mame
 
  2  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 10:42 am
I definitely do not think he should have done jail time, but I also don't think he should have been sentenced to church. That is against everything I believe in. There is no punishment here (although it would be for me) so basically he's getting off scot-free. This is not a responsible sentence.
rosborne979
 
  2  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 11:30 am
@firefly,
Sentencing someone to church sounds pretty unconstitutional to me, even if the kid gets to pick his own church (be pretty funny if he chose Wicca or Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth or something).

Sounds like the judge didn't really think the kid deserved punishment for what he did.
0 Replies
 
Enzo
 
  6  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 11:33 am
@Mame,
He admits he goes to church every Sunday already, so he has already learned that the accident was God's will and that he won't actually have to take responsibility after all. Fortunately for him, the judge supports this thinking.

Knowing that this is Oklahoma, if this kid was black, he would likely be sentenced to doing time behind bars.
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 11:47 am
@firefly,
I think it's shocking that there seems to be no punishment for murder in Oklahoma.
0 Replies
 
PUNKEY
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 12:24 pm
Was it really "murder"? or a foolish decision that ended tragically.

That boy will have to carry that with him the rest of his life. If that ain't punishment, then I don't know what is.


0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  0  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 12:46 pm
@firefly,
i think that if you knowingly get into the car of a drunk driver and end up dead that your death is your own fault, the state should take no interest. assuming that is what happened here the state needs to be ringing up a 16 year old for drunk driving only. the sentence here is overly harsh.

the order to attend church is clearly illegal, so of course i have a problem with that. the rest is ok but in almost all cases kids should get a new lease on life when they reach the age of majority, or at least by age 21. this guy should be free and clear at his 21st birthday.
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 01:23 pm
i'd take that deal, i sat in church for years as a kid and never absorbed a bit of it, beats jail in my mind
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 04:16 pm
@hawkeye10,
NAhh. The church part was only a portion of the restitution nd punishment. It wasnt murder it was a terrible accident brought on by being hmmered.

It really isnt "Illegal" as in unonstitutional since the news was only highlighting that portion .

Whats the difference if the judge sentences him to community service with some soup kitchen that is run by a hurch
It isnt a iolation of "free expression", nor is it an "establishment"
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 04:18 pm
@firefly,
Civil proceedings can still levy a judgement in cash against the kid and his family's insurance (depending hether or not thee father had blanket liability policy)
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  2  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 06:03 pm
@farmerman,
I have a problem with the legality of all public service orders that mandate that the citizen associate with non government organizations. If the judge wants to sentence linsey lohan to work in coroners office fine, but to go to AA no.
0 Replies
 
firefly
 
  2  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 06:50 pm
I have no problem with imposing a sentence that does not include jail time in this case.

But I have a definite problem with a judge imposing a mandate that includes church attendance--I think it violates the separation of church and state. And the ACLU seems to view it the same way.
Quote:
Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU, said the requirement to attend church is a "clear violation of the First Amendment."

"It's my understanding that this judge has recommended church in previous sentences, and I believe that goes too far, as well," Kiesel said. "This, however, actually making it a condition of a sentence, is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment..."

In order to challenge the constitutionality of the church attendance requirement, an individual or organization must show that it has legal standing to do so. Kiesel said the ACLU is considering what options they have.

"If the court or the district attorney attempts to enforce this requirement, we will look at possible ways to intervene," Kiesel said. "I know the boy agreed to this, but is someone facing a judge in open court really making a voluntary decision? Government officials should not be involved in what is a very personal choice."


Furthermore, I see no connection between that aspect of the sentence and the crime involved. What does drunk driving have to do with church attendance? How is church attendance connected to any sort of punishment or rehabilitation for the crime of manslaughter?

This is a judge who promotes his own personal views about the values of church attendance, and he's questionably using his legal power to mandate compliance with such views. I feel he's clearly overstepped his authority and is violating Constitutional boundaries.

Whether this teen does or does not attend church is really none of the state's business.



ehBeth
 
  2  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 06:53 pm
@Enzo,
Enzo wrote:
he has already learned that the accident was God's will and that he won't actually have to take responsibility after all.


this is very much my feeling about it

go ahead, kill someone, it's God's will. you're fine.
0 Replies
 
roger
 
  2  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 06:56 pm
@firefly,
firefly wrote:

I feel he's clearly overstepped his authority and is violating Constitutional boundaries.



You could have left off the "I feel" part.
0 Replies
 
Lustig Andrei
 
  2  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 07:02 pm
@firefly,
firefly wrote:
Since when is it the job of judges to lead people to Jesus?


That says it all for me.

Clearly, this was a tragic accident and, equally clearly, the kid shouldn't go to prison. But I firmly side with the ACLU on this -- it's a clear violation of the Constitution and it shocks me that a judge -- who knows that he's acting unconstitutionally -- would impose such a sentence.
Calamity Dal
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 07:06 pm
@Lustig Andrei,
Perhaps said judge heard voices and thought God was speaking
Lustig Andrei
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Nov, 2012 07:09 pm
@Calamity Dal,
Calamity Dal wrote:

Perhaps said judge heard voices and thought God was speaking


Even worse. Dude's schizophrenic as well as a scoff-law.
0 Replies
 
 

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