12 not so angry men and women

Posted on 19. Dec, 2011 by

District Judge John Fostel thanked the seven women and five men of the jury at the end of the trial in the Wise County Courthouse last week. It was a case of the state versus William E. Sparks.

Sparks, 52, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl. This was a victim that trusted and looked up to him. The evidence proved that Sparks was guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. Despite finding guilt, the jury, during punishment phase, decided that Sparks didn’t deserve any prison time. This conclusion raised plenty of ire with posters on our Facebook page. They couldn’t understand how they could give so light a sentence.

I have to agree with them.  I don’t think you should throw everyone in prison. In fact, people guilty of property or drug crimes shouldn’t serve any time at all in most crimes. But sexual assaults and violent crimes are a different animal. People with these behaviors are a serious threat. Their actions cast shadows over people that sometimes last a lifetime.

But the prosecution is not to blame. I’ve been covering trials in that courthouse for the past two and a half years. I’ve seen them try half a dozen similar cases. They tried this case just like did the others. They followed the same formula that has brought near maximum or maximum sentences every time. But this time the jury opted for probation.

Fostel said that no system was perfect, but that our system in America was the best in the world. He went on to say that a jury of peers can determine a sentence better than a judge can.

He’s right. But the jury’s decision this time is one most of us don’t understand. Their possible reasons don’t seem good enough. They defense felt that he needed to be free so he could work and provide child support for his young son. They thought since he only did this one time, he wasn’t that bad. Maybe he could get some good counseling on the outside that he couldn’t receive behind bars.

Whatever the ultimate reason, it’s hard for most of us to feel compassion for those who violate the trust and innocence of children. For these are the people most deserving of our love and protection.

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