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Minimum mandatory sentences not only destroy those who are sentenced but corrupt those who must determine when they will be applied. Because legislatures have taken the decision-making process away from federal and state judges, the decisions have been left to prosecutors or those given that authority by elected prosecutors. Years ago when I was a prosecutor there was a man named Murphy who was assigned the tasks of watching the attorneys at trial, evaluating their performances as well as determining when the state attorney's office would amend the charging document to allow a judge to give a sentence below the the minimum mandatory range. Murphy was trusted as the often green attorneys in the office were not because he was the chief investigator with a long storied career of excellent service, judgement and achievment. I liked him a great deal. He was an affable irishman, always laughing, always ready to slap you on the back at the end of a successful drug trial. He'd always be there at sentencing to make sure neither you nor the judge dropped the ball and later he'd be at the bar buying a celebratory drink or two. One day a young couple was arrested by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office for forging scripts for pain killers they'd become addicted to after a horrific automobile accident a year or so before. The handful of pills triggered three year minimum mandatory sentences for each of them. Not surprisingly Murphy recommended probation rather than jail in their cases. Without his recommendation neither the judges nor the attorneys would have been able to go under the three years. The wife was remarkably good-looking and as you will soon see, smart. Murphy had set up a hotel encounter with the wife, a quid pro quo for the mercy only he could give. Just as Murphy had taken off his clothes they heard a pounding at the door, the wife unlocked it and the husband burst into the room breaking things up. Later taped conversations by FDLE and the FBI revealed that Murphy continued to solicite sex for a reduction of the sentence even after the hotel incident. The ensuing whirlwind of publicity aged Murphy. I'll never forget seeing this once respected man humbled, jobless and ruined. At his sentencing with hands shaking, his health broken as he sat in his second-hand wheelchair with torn leather begging the judge to give him a period of probation rather than the lockup he surely deserved--- where those prisoners serving their dull dark minimum mantory years would certainly have murdered him...

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