Judge "Let Me Go"

Article by Andrea Estes and Scott Allen.
It looked like Carl Lemon would be going back to jail for the 20th time. Saddled with a 25-year record of shoplifting, drug dealing, and assorted other crimes, not to mention eight aliases, Lemon had made it easy for prosecutors. He even signed a confession saying that he had stolen a woman’s purse while she ate in a Back Bay restaurant. A second victim, whose bag he also snatched, had driven overnight from Canada to testify against him.

But, as the two victims watched in disbelief, the judge set Lemon free, saying that the career criminal, then 43, needed a detox program, not jail time. When the detective who arrested Lemon rolled his eyes and muttered that the decision was a disgrace, Judge Raymond G. Dougan Jr. had court officers lock him up for the morning instead.

“I thought someone was going to jail that day; I just didn’t think it would be me,’’ recalled Detective Andrew Gambon.

Dougan may be the most lenient judge in Boston, a prosecutor’s nightmare whose decisions are appealed by district attorneys far more often than any other judge in the Boston Municipal Court system, court records show. Appeals courts overturn his decisions the most, too, more than once including stern warnings that he should follow the law instead of his personal feelings. The 20-year-veteran judge’s reputation is so well established that one defendant predicted to police that he would go free after he went before “Judge Let Me Go’’ Dougan, according to the police report.

Categories: Law/Justice

3 replies »

  1. Liberalism got to love it. This is the consequence of too much LSD resulting in failure grasp common sense and reality.

  2. Not to get too knee-jerk in the opposite direction, but this article seems rather one-sided to me. Certainly there are people on the other side of the spectrum as well so perhaps this guy could be a balancing factor, (e.g. one Judge Dougan for every Nancy Grace). In fairness as well, I think me and Keith (as well as many other readers here) would agree that there are many laws that should exist in the first place so the fact that this judge would be lenient with those accused of such crimes should not raise alarm for us. That’s not to say that all of Dougan’s actions were defensible at all, it is just that we should be cautious when reading these articles, especially considering the fact that most likely, the writers hold several assumptions about these matters that radical libertarians would disagree with.

    One issue that comes up is how crime should be seen in the first place and I certainly think that this is one area where there is a lot of inconsistency among most of the population. What I am referring specifically is the way in which responsibility for one’s actions are preached yet at the same time denied. A case in point is the mentioning in the article of the man who attempted suicide then threatened someone with scissors then kidnapped someone later after being released by Dougan. The thing I want to drew attention to is the fact that under the current system, that man is considered mentally unstable and therefore should be restrained because he is not competent (that may not be right word I’m looking for, but I think the concept is clear enough). Yet at the same time, he is considered to be responsible for his other actions and therefore should be subject to punishment. As a libertarian, I believe that someone should be able to end his/her life at that the moment of that individuals own choosing and yes I understood not everyone that would do that would be thinking clearly. The thing is that a lot of people who commit crimes are not thinking clearly either and I find it odd that people can simultaneously demand that folks face the consequences for their actions, especially when those consequences are artificial while at the same time attempting to shield people from the innate consequences of their actions. Perhaps Judge Dougan’s actions might make sense if one believes that these defendants are simply unfortunate victims of their own biology and therefore putting them in jail would be a cruel and unjust thing to do. Now of course, it would be argued that even then it would be wrong to just these roam the streets in the same way it would be wrong to let a rabid dog do that, but I think that many people would say that someone who is mentally incompetent should be treated as having a sickness and therefore in a much more humane way than if that person is seen as a criminal. Voltarine de Cleyre in her essay, “Crime and Punishment” deals with these issues in much more in-depth (and eloquent) way than I do here and I would highly recommend it for radical libertarian thought on this issue. I’m not endorsing the position above and I think that some (like Thomas Szasz) have made excellent critiques of the anti-responsibility position, but Szasz is consistent with his logic in that he believes people should not be prevented from committing actions that cause self-harm whereas in contrast, many maintain a sort of double think on this issue. Now one thing I disagree with is the idea deterrence as the sole reason for punishment which some people hold to. I think the reason is to do fundamentally with opposition to using people solely as means, which is probably one of the reasons I became a libertarian of any stripe in the first place.

    As for JJ, his/her remark about liberalism sounds like typical conservative complaining of the “liberalism is responsible for every evil in the world” variety. I don’t know JJ’s political affiliation so I won’t necessarily direct this to him/her, but I will absolutely come out and say that conservatives of more bullshit on this issue than liberals are. First of all, I’m always amazed at how when some people speak out against war they are chided for being naive and silly, not understanding that war is just a part of human nature and therefore it is silly to express any indignation over it etc etc. Yet when it comes to the violence from crime, suddenly it is so horrible and unimaginable and the people that do it are depraved, in other words, they sound like the hippies talking about war when they talk about crime. One interesting thing is that that crime is not all seen in the same way by those perpetrating it, In Keith’s “Crime and Conflict Theory” article, there is a very interesting discussion of how gangs see their feuds with other gangs in the same way that nations see their wars and the quotation from Chris Hoke in the article is quite interesting and enlightening regarding this. In addition, the conservative Hobbesian view that everyone would destroy one another without the state, cops, and prisons while at the same time their rhetoric about good law abiding citizens is another example of their confused thinking. When they talk to the public, all conservative politicians always seem to want to make the point that most citizens are good and law-abiding and it is a handful of miscreants who make life miserable for this majority. Yet these same conservatives also have to will also hold that most people are horrible and corrupt and can only be kept in check by a strong arm state. Now if this is the case, is it not true the only difference between criminals versus law-abiding citizens is that some believe they can get away with things well others do not (perhaps the ones that think they can are just dumber). In this view, it could be argued that had there been a system to watch everyone all the time, perhaps most of these people would not have committed crimes, therefore what really needs to be implemented is a super system of surveillance, perhaps some kind of monitor to track everybody all the time. Likewise, with the conservative penchant for psychological explanations of crime, I find it odd that liberals are mocked for the “society made me a monster/criminal” nonsense yet how is that view really that different from the conservative view that amounts to, “my neurons/genes made me a monster.” Both these views are really the same in my perspective because they both put the cause of actions beyond a person’s control.

    One more general point about the article is how much of the righteous indignation (like that expressed in the article) is really that and how much of it is really fear. It would not surprise me if, had I posted this comment on other sites that get many comments below their articles, there would not be some morons telling me how I’ll like it when I’m killed, robbed, beat up etc. I think the fact is that fear and violent hatred are often closely linked and lead to the support by many in the public to things that would otherwise be considered horrible and repulsive (e.g. police brutality, prison rape, torture etc.). I agree with Keith’s view in his “Dealing with Crime in a Free Society” that “individual responsibility, initiative and self-reliance” should be the cornerstone of an effective crime control strategy. In addition, I would also add solidarity as an important point, not in blind devotion to an abstract collective, but rather as a rational decision by individuals to cooperate with others with the understanding being that such actions are the best way to advance their individual interests. This strategy requires a population that is strong and brave, the opposite of what society tends to instill into individuals today. If I may add, most libertarians and anarchists also lack these traits and among some of them, I would argue is present a masochistic victimhood fetish.

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