Our Unfair Criminal Justice System

Today, 18-year-old Shamus Patton, who pleaded guilty to shooting nine teen-agers during last year's Black Expo Summer Celebration, received a sentence of just 8 years for his crime. Patton's attorney had argued for an even lighter sentence, but Marion Co. Superior Court Judge Carol Orbison wasn't buying the argument. "I think the circumstances of this crime are absolutely horrendous," Orbison said before reading his sentence. With time credited for good behavior, Patton should be back out on the streets within three years for his "absolutely horrendous crime." Patton gets to serve the final two years of his sentence in community corrections, whereupon he will be required to serve just two years of probation.

Contrast Patton's sentence with that of 39-year-old Augustus Mendenhall, who was convicted of attempting to murder State Rep. Ed DeLaney, even though he never fired a single shot at DeLaney and only caused minor injuries to DeLaney during a scuffle between the two men. Hamilton Superior Court Judge William Hughes sentenced Mendenhall to 40 years in prison after a jury found him guilty but mentally ill. Judge Hughes seemed to choose a harsher penalty against Mendenhall because he was an attorney and his victim was chosen out of revenge for the actions of DeLaney, a prominent attorney, who arguably abused the legal processes for his powerful client to destroy the business of Mendenhall's father. Hughes, who was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving after being arrested and charged with drunk driving earlier this year, described Mendenhall as "sick and entwined since childhood with his father's hatred and need for revenge", but found his statement read in court "chilling, threatening, and unbelievable" and evidencing no remorse.

Like I've said before, there are two forms of justice in this country: one for the privileged elite and one for the rest of us. Patton will serve but a very short sentence for shooting nine black youths because our criminal justice system places a lesser value on the lives of those nine black youths than it does the single highly privileged life of Ed DeLaney. I wonder if DeLaney has any remorse for the years of suffering to which he subjected Mendenhall's father and family? I doubt it. And I'm sure he won't lose any sleep knowing Mendenhall is spending far more time in prison for his crime than justice should have required of him to serve.