921.002 The Criminal Punishment Code.—The Criminal Punishment Code (CPC) shall apply to all felony offenses, except capital felonies, committed on or after October 1, 1998.
(1) … The Criminal Punishment Code embodies the principles that:
(a) Sentencing is neutral with respect to race, gender, and social and economic status … (emphasis added)
However, before the 1998 CPC was enacted, there were older guidelines in use, originally put in place in part to combat racial disparity in sentencing, which capped the amount of time a judge could dole out to an offender. In fact, a Department of Corrections report entitled Sentencing Guidelines 1995-96 Annual Report, Part II: Impact, Section 2. Sentencing Neutrality, states as follows:
“FACT: This study found that an offender’s race has NO meaningful effect on the sentencing decisions made by Florida courts under the 1994 and 1995 sentencing guidelines structure.”
And now comes the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s exhaustive study entitled Florida’s broken sentencing system, finding racial disparity alive and well throughout the state. After examining “tens of millions of documents” relating to criminal cases from 2004-2015, all cases falling after the enactment of the 1998 CPC which eliminated caps and allows judges to impose any sentence within the statutory maximum, the Herald-Tribune found racial bias in sentencing is back with a vengeance.
The good folks in Sarasota didn’t suggest the 1998 changes to the guidelines as a possible factor in the inexcusable reemergence of racial disparity in sentencing, but some of our sources did. Additionally, sources caution against the filing of disqualification motions against the worst judicial offenders based upon the Herald-Tribune’s Judges Database, at least until a better understanding of the methodology employed by the paper can be realized, and a more thorough consideration is given concerning the role all parties may play in the current state of sentencing in Florida, namely the SAO, PDO, Defense Bar, Law Enforcement, DOC, JNC, JQC, DCA, SCT, Judicial College, and Legislature. Until that time, however, lawyers should be informing their clients of the study, particularly in courtrooms starring judges with higher scores on the racial bias database scorecard …
Coming Soon – Goodbye, Hugh’s Catering …