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November 1, 2006 - The Ledger (FL)

Editorial: Not Guilty? Don't Say So

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

It doesn't pay to continue claiming innocence -- even if it's true -- after being found guilty by a judge or jury.

That was the message from the U.S. Supreme Court Monday.

It refused to hear a case in which a judge said he was increasing the sentence for a rape defendant because he hadn't shown "remorse" for the crime.

"I don't see any remorse in this case," Circuit Judge Daniel Burress of Livingston, Mich., said at the 2003 sentencing of Craig M. Haskell.

"None. And it's bothersome to me. I took the bench today not knowing what I was going to do to you. ... The only question I have is how much above the minimum I should go."

He sentenced Haskell to 12 years to 30 years, far more than the minimum sentence under Michigan law.

Haskell protested that he couldn't show remorse because he didn't commit the crime: "I know that one day the truth will come out and I stand before you still an innocent man."

Any showing of contrition would be solely for the purpose of seeking leniency under those circumstances.

We have no way of knowing what Haskell did or didn't do that got him in trouble with the law.

But we do know that people occasionally are found guilty of crimes they didn't commit.

For a judge to penalize a person for maintaining his innocence to the end doesn't seem terribly fair or a very good precedent for future cases.

The Supreme Court should have, at the very least, agreed to hear the case and issue a formal opinion.

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