An Operation: Crime and Justice investigation finds Baltimore judges are giving out light sentences to convicted criminals. Some judges call our findings “inaccurate” and “misleading.”
While crime increased in Baltimore, criticism of city judges also rose from police commissioners to the governor.
Fox45 obtained three years of Baltimore City Circuit Court sentencing data from the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing. In over 9500 cases, we found judges gave sentences under guideline minimums 62% of the time.
The guidelines are recommendations. Judges don’t need to follow them. The guidelines offer judges a range of prison time for convicted criminals. For example, an attempted second degree murder case could carry a possible sentence of 5 to 25 years.
Maryland’s Department of the Judiciary provided us a phone interview with Baltimore judges W. Michel Pierson and Shannon Avery. They questioned our findings, saying a look at the hard numbers does not consider other factors in the guidelines. For example, if a judge approved a binding plea deal for a particular sentence in a case, that sentence complies with guidelines no matter how short it may be.
University of Maryland Law Professor Doug Colbert defends Baltimore City judges, and the process they undertake in handing out a sentence.
“I don’t think you can look at a particular crime and say, this is a gun offender charge, and this person got probation, therefore, that’s lenient. Wrong, “ Colbert said.