From the Louisville Courier-Journal‘s editorial, “Injudicious conduct“:
The tirade delivered by Jefferson Circuit Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman on Friday as she sentenced Cecil New II to life in prison for murder was an outrageous violation of any reasonable standard for judicial conduct.
The judge declared that by sentencing New to life in prison without the possibility of parole for sexually abusing and murdering a 4-year-old boy in 2007, the convicted killer will be surrounded by “bigger, meaner men who have nothing to lose.”“He will fear for his life every day. He will wish this court had put him on death row,” she said. Death row inmates are kept in isolation, even to the extent of having meals alone in their cells. By putting New in the general prison population, she implies that he will be routinely in danger of abuse, rape or even death…
It seems likely that in crafting her statement, Judge McDonald-Burkman was trying to protect her backside from attacks in a future election campaign that she was soft on crime. But she went far overboard. A judge’s role is never to condone prison violence, which is a serious national problem. To the contrary, a judge must uphold the rule of law and support prison procedures, which include protection of targets of inmate violence.
The death penalty, and all criminal sentencing, should be above political posturing. Just one more example of how broken our system is.