Oh yeah? Take that! – The daily newspaper Ukiah
Normally, judges are among the most reserved people. After all, one of the characteristics of the job is supposed to be having a “judicial temper”. Normally . . . but not always. And sometimes, as happened between two Sacramento Court of Appeals judges, they can get into the legal equivalent of a food fight.
The case involved an inmate named Steven Martinez. The lead opinion, written by Judge Arthur Scotland, began by explaining that in 2001 Martinez was in “the third year of a 157-year life sentence for abducting a woman and committing violent crimes against her” when was attacked by two comrades. detained and stabbed in the neck, making him a complete quadriplegic.
Martinez remained alive, but was rendered unable to move below his neck. In 2008, he applied for what is called “compassionate release” – available to detainees who have six months or less to live, or who have “become permanently medically incapacitated” and “would not pose a threat to public safety if released. ”
One would normally think that a person who cannot move would “not pose a threat to public safety,” but the California Board of Parole Hearings thought otherwise and declined to recommend Martinez’s release. Martinez challenged this decision and the first judge who heard the case agreed, ordering the Commission to find him a suitable candidate for release.
Not so fast, the Council said. He appealed and the court of Justice Scotland – by a vote of 2 to 1 – agreed, ruling the lower court should have deferred to the judgment of the Council.
So: how does a person who cannot move constitute a “threat to public safety”? Well, according to Justice Scotland, Martinez “is a wicked, angry and violent person who may seek the help of others to harm those who irritate him”. Of course, anyone ‘can ask’ for help from others to commit crimes, but Scotland noted that Martinez has a track record – the courts, after all, don’t routinely hand down longer prison sentences. a century and a half. And after his injury, Martinez continued to show he was “nasty, angry and violent” by regularly insulting his medical staff – whose daily physical care kept Martinez alive. This, Scotland wrote, was “evidence” that Martinez could order others to commit crimes if released, and referred the case for further proceedings.
This was too much for Judge Richard Sims, who strongly disagreed with the majority opinion. In what was apparently the original version of his dissent, he began by quoting a famous quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes, that “The life of the law has not been consistent; it was the experience.
This apparently prompted Scotland to rewrite the majority opinion, where he noted Holmes’s quote, then replied, “Well, experience has shown that quadriplegics can commit violent crimes.” He cited four news reports that demonstrated this, including one in which a quadriplegic fired a gun while pulling a string with his mouth.
This, in turn, prompted Sims to rewrite his dissent so he could respond to stories of “violent crimes committed by quadriplegics” in Scotland. Sims first retorted that “with the help of a good internet search engine, you can prove anything, including that pigs can fly. (See, for example, Pigs Really Can Fly . . . With the Help of a Trampoline . . . www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6728968″. He cited two other stories about “flying pigs “, one from the San Diego Union-Tribune and one from the Washington Post.
Sims also claimed that the four Scottish stories really support Sims’ position, as these four cases have come from all over the country since 1972, and “four stories in the country in 38 years is damn little.” Indeed, the stories are written and reported because the commission of serious crimes by quadriplegics is so rare and bizarre that they are newsworthy.
Must have been in the Weekly World News. No, wait, it’s no longer published.
Thankfully, Scotland did not extend the legal bid at this stage – although they could have. In 1995, in a movie called “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead”, a character played by Andy Garcia is ordered to commit a crime by a character played by Christopher Walken. Walken’s character, who is only referred to as “the plan man”, is quadriplegic thanks to a failed attempt to kill him. But he’s still capable of committing violent crimes, including the one he orders Garcia (and several others) to commit.
So maybe Justice Scotland wasn’t so far wrong; maybe the Martinez case was just a matter of life mimicking art.
Frank Zotter, Jr. is an attorney from Ukiah.