The Record Eagle has been doing investigative reporting as of late. They’ve been looking into sentencing disparities among racial groups in the 13th Circuit Court.
It wasn’t a little study, either. The Record Eagle looked at data from 387 cases. They even filtered out cases where the defendants weren’t local. They concluded that white defendants receive 12 months in jail on average while black defendants get 43 months on average. That’s more than three times more time if you’re black.
Of course, Grand Traverse County Prosecutor and wants-to-be-a-judge-himself Bob Cooney says there can’t be a problem. He says that black defendants must just have more serious criminal records. He sites no statistics for his claims, and he has no plans to ensure that defendants are treated fairly regardless of their race. Even though it’s a serious issue, he hasn’t disclosed any internal audit or any other measure to ensure his office fairly pursues justice.
There’s a way to account for that. You could statistically plot the time received on one axis along with the maximum possible time for the offense or per the sentencing guidelines on the other axis. Assign each race its own color and you should be able to eyeball the data points to see if there’s an inexplicable sentencing disparity between races.
Attorney Robert Steadman wrote a letter to the editor to the Record Eagle agreeing with the Record Eagle’s concerns about racism in sentencing disparities in the court. Being an attorney, Steadman must have gone out on a limb to publicly state his concerns about racism in the court.
Some digging shows that Steadman is a master attorney. That means he’s not actively practicing. He’s been a licensed attorney since 1951 and doesn’t appear to have a working website. So perhaps it wasn’t that much of a professional risk to speak publicly about his concerns. Even so, Steadman went public, and he gets the Chuck Norris meme. Mr. Steadman, if you’re reading this, an internet meme is a catch phrase, media-rich depiction that draws on popular culture in an attempt to use humor to make a point. See above.
It’s not the first time that Judge Thomas Power has come under fire for his actions. He is thick in the middle of the Robert Schwander sentencing debacle that has seen the Michigan Court of Appeals send the case back to the 13th Circuit Court no less than three times causing outright repeated trauma to the victim’s family. It hasn’t been sent back because the defendant keeps appealing a fair sentence; no, it keeps getting sent back because Power and now-retired Judge Philip Rodgers keep insisting on imposing a first-degree murder sentence when the jury returned a verdict for only second-degree murder. That’s on Rodgers and Power, and on Cooney for continuing to advocate for what the law doesn’t justify.
Great reporting from the Record Eagle. Way better work than a column on some guy resenting having to mow his lawn.