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If Alabama didn't already have enough problems with poverty, racism, storms, oil spills and other disasters, they now face one on the bench of their highest court, the Supreme Court of Alabama. And the problem is with the leader of this highest court in the state, Chief Justice Roy Moore.
This week Justice Moore made known his interpretations of the US Constitution while speaking at the Pastor for Life Luncheon, which was sponsored by his neighboring Pro-Life Mississippi Organization. And the Chief Justice had some eye-opening remarks which might explain some pretty screwed up thinking about the South. It seems justice, like a fish, stinks from the top. And is this the kind of judge you'd like to see adjudicating any case you were part of?
...declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians because “Buddha didn't create us, Mohammed didn't create us, it was the God of the Holy Scriptures” who created us.
Holy Scriptures? Doesn't that include the Old Testament? That's the book the Jews and Gentiles both believe in, so why aren't Jews part of this first amendment coverage?
It looks like Chief Justice Moore feels that the Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, who's beliefs predate the New Testament, were all wrong and therefore their beliefs aren't protected under our US Constitution, especially the bill of rights. Wow.
When looking for his answers, Moore relies on an obscure interpretation of law, from an Englishman who died in 1780.
Chief Justice Moore later defined “life” via Blackstone’s Law — a book that American lawyers have “sadly forgotten” — as beginning when “the baby kicks.” “Today,” he said, “our courts say it’s not alive ’til the head comes out.
But Justice Moore's ignorance doesn't stop there.
He later said that “you can’t be happy unless you follow God’s law, and if you follow God’s law, you can’t help but be happy.”
Now's it's all becoming clear to me. The Chief Justice is channeling Pharrell Williams and his "Happy" song for his rulings. After all, we know that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the only thing the Declaration of Independence (which led us to ultimately draw up our Constitution) is really about. Those lyrics appear to be the judicial tenets from the Moore bench in which laws are weighed and interpreted in Alabama. So let's all clap our hands and get happy.
I think the people of that southern state are in for a whole mess of troubles with a guy like Chief Justice Moore leading the way. But at least with him in the lead seat on the bench, we're all gonna be "happy."
The Natchez Trace runs, as the post title says, from Natchez, Mississippi, on the Mississippi River itself, to just south of Nashville, Tennessee. It's 444 miles long and is, itself, a national park, administed by the National Park Service. It is a limited access highway with a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour. Since no commercial traffic is permitted and there are few gas stations (I actually know of only one which closed down a few years - I'm not sure if there are any further north), the big RVs seldom travel it. In fact, except for certain stretches few vehicles travel it at all because it's only two lanes, the speed limit is strictly enforced, it is poorly or not at all lit, and the woods are full of deer and other animals.
I love it.
Because of the danger of hitting a deer at night, I travel it very slowly and stop often just to be in the middle of the Mississippi wilderness.
I looked at one video which was a time lapse of the entire trace and, as time lapses do, the entire distance was covered in a matter of minutes, giving you the impression you were traveling at 100 mph. Nothing could be further from the actual experience. The trace is for taking your time and savoring.
Oh, here is the Wikipedia entry about the historical trace.
Note: this beautiful road / national park would not have been built without the backing of Franklin Delano Roosevelt - FDR: Another wiki..
When it comes to meting out punishment in courts, there's sentencing guidelines and generally they are followed. But judges are, for the most part, given discretion based on the facts and evidence in a case. Sometimes additional time is tacked on, sometimes a lesser sentence is granted. And then there's always the consideration of probation for some or all of the term. From AL.com:
ATHENS, Alabama - A man accused of raping a teenage acquaintance was convicted by a Limestone County jury this afternoon, according to District Attorney Brian Jones.
Some of the incidents occurred when she was under 16, [14 years old for two of the attacks] which included the second-degree counts, and one when she was over 16, which led to the first-degree count of forcible sex.
After deliberating for just under two hours, the jury returned with guilty verdicts for one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape against 25-year-old Austin Smith Clem, Jones said. Clem will be sentenced Nov. 13 in Limestone County Circuit Court.
It doesn't seem like the jury had a particularly difficult time in reaching a verdict. Then two days later, the judge didn't seem to have too much difficulty in meting out sentencing...
According to Mother Jones who carried this story, here's the judges declared sentence for Mr. Clem:
Limestone County Circuit Judge James Woodroof sentenced Clem to 10 years in prison for each of the second-degree rape charges and 20 years for first-degree rape.
If you do the crime, you gotta do the time -- isn't that how the saying goes?
But Woodroof structured the sentence in such a way that Clem will only be hit with community corrections and probation. Clem will have to register as a sex offender and pay fines and restitution—a total of $2,381, according to the sentencing document provided to Mother Jones—but he will not serve jail time unless he violates the terms of his sentencing.
Huh? Whoa. What?
On Wednesday, a judge in Athens, Alabama, ruled that the rapist will be punished by serving two years in a program aimed at nonviolent criminals and three years of probation.
According to Clem's sentencing order, which Brian Jones, the Limestone County district attorney, provided to Mother Jones, Clem will serve the first half of his sentence under the supervision of the Limestone County community corrections program. The program is aimed at "redirecting the lives" of nonviolent, low-level offenders who are "likely to maintain a productive and law-abiding life as a result of accountability, guidance and direction to services they need," according to the program's website.
Multiple rape CONVICTIONS and no jail sentence? These weren't plea agreements. These charges went to trial and this man was found guilty by a jury. Sounds to me like Lady Justice just got raped and this time by Circuit Judge James Woodroof.
This guy Clem is sentenced to a program which "is aimed at "redirecting the lives" of nonviolent, low-level offenders." Excuse me. Income tax evasion and driving without a license are nonviolent crimes. But RAPE, and especially of a minor? Where's this judge stashing his crack pipe, under his robes?
Dan Totten, Clem's defense attorney, did agree that this was a light, but fair sentence. After all, he points out,
"But [Clem's] lifestyle for the next six years is going to be very controlled…If he goes to a party and they're serving beer, he can't say, 'Can I have one?' If he wanted to go across the Tennessee line, which as the crow flies is eight or nine miles from his house, and buy a lottery ticket, he can't do that…It's not a slap on the wrist."
He can't ask for a beer at a party or go buy a lottery ticket across state lines? Are you sh**ing me? That is harsh.
Can the victim just go out and ask for her innocence back? What's her lifetime sentence compared with three years of probation?
Somebody talk me down from this, if you think you can.
While you're at it, don't forget to follow me on Twitter: @Linzack
Now I believe I've only been to Alabama once, and must say that in passing through, it was quite nice, actually. I did have long hair back then and was called "Girly Girl" twice, but I'm sure any college-age stranger would get noticed along the interstate. And perhaps the folks I ran into weren't as enlightened as those today.
I was thinking about a trip to the South this winter season, to meet up with an old buddy who's a New Englander and migrates to the South every snow season. It was just a though. So, I headed to my trusty Internets machine and I did that Googly stuff and found all sorts of goodies about the southern states.
One site led to another until I found my way here to weird but true laws within the United States. I gotta say, there's still some wacky regulations on the books.
How wacky? I'll share a few with you. These are for Alabama only. Keep in mind, it's not so much that the law is still on the books, it's how the hell did it get on the books in the first place. Think of what public outcry there must have been for these laws to be passed --
It is illegal to play solitaire on Sundays.
I bet they also prohibit singing the song, "All By Myself" when alone in the shower, Sundays only, of course.
Putting salt on a railroad track may be punishable by death.
My mom got mad if you put salt on her meat loaf but she was a good cook and I can understand fussy chefs, but isn't this is taking things pretty damn far. Besides, who eats railroad track? Why else salt it? Does it make you wonder how many people saw the electric chair for this offense?
In Lee County, it's illegal to sell peanuts after Sundown on Wednesday.
After sundown? Till when, the next day? Friday? Man, I can see why the circus never comes to town in Lee County, Alabama. Poor elephants.
It is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church.
C'mon. You kidding me? Why else would you put on a fake moustache unless you wanted someone to laugh. And what's the matter with a little laughter in church? I mean if you are stuck there for a good part of your morning, why not add a little levity?
Okay. Well, now you and I know what not to do in Alabama the next time we're there. Forewarned is forearmed... or something like that.
Say, while I've got you in a good mood, this would be a good time to ask you, if you already haven't, to make a donation to our quadrannual drive. We really appreciate you contributions. As Laffy and Paddy say, "Without you, there would be no us."
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