THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE? November 17, 2012 It is no surprise that judge Mike Norman handed down church attendance as part of a plea bargain, but this is the first time it was done for something as serious as first degree manslaughter. The accused, 17 year old Tyler Alfred, was charged with manslaughter after crashing a car and killing the passenger, his friend John Dum. Alfred was under the legal limit for Oklahoma, but had still be involved with underage drinking.
The biggest reason for this sentence was Alfred’s clean record and solid educational performance. At the same time, Norman has previously sentenced people to church as an alternative to jail time. It was a poignant moment for the judge as he realized that the family was an important unit to keep together and decided against jail time. The Oklahoma defense attorney in the case agreed with the sentencing, saying that compared to most of the criminals, Alfred is worth saving. The judge concurred.
Though this is an uncommon sentence, it is an important point for judges to realize that criminal defenders are not all subject to the same penalties in certain situations. It was a combination of circumstances that led to this, including the judge, the defendant’s past, and the Oklahoma defense lawyer, but it shows us that there are alternatives to unjust sentencing and sweeping, black and white decisions based on personal judgement.