Senate Bill 1092 on mandatory minimum sentencing, was introduced by Senator Dwight Bullard, and filed by the Senate Chamber on February 19th. The bill, referenced to “The Alexander-Giles Act,” which authorizes a judge to grant a less than mandatory minimum sentence under exceptional circumstances.
The bill analysis states a judge must document the reasons for their decision to depart or adhere to the mandatory minimum sentence. The factors that would be examined and not limited to approval of the bill are the defendant’s history of surviving domestic violence, mental health and or information provided at trial or sentencing.
According to the bill, the defendant must not pose as a criminal threat to the public and the mandatory minimum sentence does not fulfill the goal of punishment and other sentencing criteria.
Criminal defense attorney Aaron Wayt said, Marissa Alexander, 34, from Jacksonville, Fla., is a victim of a 20 year mandatory minimum sentence. Alexander was prosecuted by Angela Cory, the same prosecutor in the George Zimmerman trial. Alexander fired a warning shot near her husband as self defense. She had been undergoing domestic violence while she was pregnant.
Marcus Giles, a member of the air force, was visiting his frat brother here in Tallahassee. Giles got into a physical altercation and decided to fire his gun, which he had a licence for. Giles was arrested and later charged with attempted murder and received the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Referring to the 10 to 20 years mandatory minimum sentence guidelines, Wayt states:
“It’s an archaic thing. People have to sit in prison for 10 to 20 years for no good reason at all.”
Florida A&M University Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice Keith D. Parker supports the bill due to his belief that judges know more about the case (i.e., crime, defendant, psychological evaluations, personal/criminal histories) than anyone else.
“I believe that judges are in a better position to make common-sense decisions relative to the case,” Parker said.
Tallahassee Community College student Benjamin Marsh opposes mandatory minimum sentencing and feels that judges should lessen punishments due to frustrating justice or harsher punishment over the original legislative guidelines.
“Judges should have more power than the law,” said Marsh.