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“But he is a good person,” is a Get out of Jail Free Card?

In 1754 BC, the first law code was published; it is known as Hammurabi’s Code. The code is a strict, written document that outlines all of the consequences for crimes. Today, our written law is ever- present and, in a perfect America, it is fair. However, that is not always the case.

In 2005, Essex, Massachusetts Judge Elizabeth Fahey would make a sentence she would soon regret. Michael Boutchie was a white man accused of drunkenly and under the influence of drugs raping a sleeping friend. After a jury found him guilty, prosecutors recommended him for six to eight years in prison. This already below average sentence was alarming to the public, but Judge Fahey believed differently. Although she addressed his offense as serious and scarring for the victim, she was persuaded otherwise by some people of Essex. Michael, having been a born and raised Essex citizen, had connections that others in the county did not: former teachers, coaches, family, and co- workers. Apparently, over thirty people who knew Boutchie wrote the judge. Many claimed, “He is a good person”. Consequently, she only assigned Boutchie five years of probation the area’s judges often issue a sentence of ten years. Whether it be nepotism, race- related or otherwise, she succumbed to pressure from others. In her statement, she wrote that his drug and alcohol problem was a significant factor in the crime and that is was the reason for his behavior. She finalized her statement with, “I am hopeful that, if he can eliminate his substance abuse, he can become a law-abiding, contributing member of society”.

            Unfortunately, wishful thinking is just that: wishful. Three years later, Boutchie was heavily intoxicated when he was reported as sexually and non- sexually assaulting a friend’s girlfriend. After another court session, he was sentenced to only two years in prison.

            It is blatantly unfair that because Michael Boutchie was from the area and had people on his side to write letters that he was let off easier than others have been. The worst part is, finding a case like Michael Boutchie’s was frighteningly easy because there are so many like it.

Hammurabi’s Law code was magnificent in the way that it was the first of its kind, but it opened our eyes to the great divide it allowed. For example, it wrote out how specific social statuses would repay for their crime dependent on their wealth.  In this way, our laws really are not that different from Hammurabi, but almost worse. Hammurabi was blatant in his law code in showing that people of different classes are treated differently. It was written in the law and therefore people were expectedly treated differently. In American society, we write about fairness for all in every document, but fail to uphold that standard in every case. From school district to parents’ identities, we can compile vast lists of inequalities in court sentences.

            So, how can we fix this as a society? I propose a stricter, less malleable, and uniform code given to judges. For example, judges in America have much leeway in sentencing. As seen in the Boutchie case, the prosecutors recommended six to eight years in prison, and the Judge did not comply. By tightening up the regulations, it will demand fairness throughout America for all people. Things like rape and assault should not be up to the hands of a judge with mail from the defendants’ friends and family. There needs to be consistency; consistency is the key.  


Ava Harding Words: 594

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