Today’s Opinion: Differences of court rulings of similar cases

POSTED: 05/26/11 12:36 PM

Some court rulings and some demands by the prosecution are difficult to explain or to understand. Take for instance the case of the teenager who stood trial yesterday on a charge of attempted murder. The prosecution considers there is proof for this charge and the 17-year-old defendant is now facing a suspended 5-year prison sentence, 240 hours of community service and a couple of additional conditions.
The defendant’s attorney thought that this demand is way over the top. The qualification of attempted murder is very heavy and the punishment too high.
Compare this with the Otmar Leonard stabbing that took place on July 14 in Belvedere. Here, the defendant is also a teenager. Hakeem I. the Court in First Instance acquitted him, after the prosecution demanded a 10-year prison sentence. The prosecution appealed the acquittal and last week the solicitor general again demanded a 10-year prison sentence.
Maybe the comparison is not entirely fair but to the lay observer such huge differences in penalties are simply confusing.
There is of course no way of knowing how Judge Keppels will react to the demand. After all, the sentence she hands down could both be above and below the prosecutions demand.
Still, different as these cases may be on the finer points, the results and some of the circumstances are identical. In both cases a teenager lost his temper and went to war with fatal consequences. In both cases, somebody ended up dead.
And still there is in one case the possibility of another acquittal, or of a 10-year prison sentence. In the other case a 5 year suspended prison sentence is looming, combined with community service, house arrest and the obligation to go to school.
The independent judge is one of the treasures of a constitutional democracy, so we are not about to criticize any decision the court is taking. But we do have a problem to explain these differences to our readers.

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