Let’s change it. The Rhode Island Supremes have let stand a Superior Court sentence incurred by a probation violator and ended any judicial remedy in what some view as an unjust regime at probation hearings. Basically the standard of proof used by judges at violation hearings is “I thought I told you to stay out of trouble. Why are you standing in front of me?”* with the defendant sent back to prison to complete all or part of the prior sentence. And there he stays even if those secondary charges are dropped or even if he’s exonerated. Law-abiding citizens might well wonder why a person with as much to lose as a convict on probation would ever expose himself to any risky situation, but these people often live complicated lives with difficult relatives in iffy neighborhoods and things happen. So the remedy now lies with our legislators and Dose readers will not be surprised to see who’s right in there fighting.
State Rep. David A. Segal, D-Providence, and four other representatives are sponsoring a bill this year that would require a probationer to be released if he is acquitted or exonerated of the crime that led to the violation. A similar bill was passed by the General Assembly last year, but vetoed by Governor Carcieri.
“People shouldn’t be in prison for crimes they didn’t commit,” Segal said yesterday. “We’ve got a fundamental notion of American justice, where it’s better to let 1,000 guilty men go free than to have 1 innocent imprisoned.”
We have hearings for a reason, let the judges hear something. And I would remind Attorney General Lynch that his mandate is not to fill prisons — he’s supposed to do justice. [Providence Journal]
*New standard — the state need only show that ‘reasonably satisfactory’ evidence supports a finding that the defendant has violated his or her probation