Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Can't Believe I Missed This One

Over the last couple of weeks, I wrote several pieces about the case of Raymond Richardson (story 2). Richardson is a convicted kidnapper whose sentence was reduced from 30 years to 10 years by the state Supreme Court, was released after serving only 5 years because of liberal good time credits, and is suspected of the murder of a woman the State Police found dead in the back seat of Richardson's car during a traffic stop on I-79 near Charleston.

Led by "Let 'em Loose Larry" Starcher--a nickname Justice Larry Starcher has earned from some police officers, prosecutors and circuit judges--the state Supreme Court ruled 3-2 that 30 years in prison (with parole eligibility occurring after 25% of the sentence had been served and mandatory release for good behavior after 50%) was excessive and that instead the 10-year minimum sentence was appropriate for the crime despite the fact that Richardson kidnapped his victim at gunpoint and forced her to walk naked outdoors to a building where she was held during a terrifying 14-hour ordeal that included being burned by lit cigarettes, urinated upon by Richardson, doused with gasoline and threatened with being set on fire. Let 'em Loose Larry, Chief Justice Joe Albright, and former Justice Warren McGraw routinely reduced prison sentences of violent felons like Richardson and now-infamous convicted child molester Tony Arbaugh (who not only got probation but was allowed to remain on probation despite numerous probation violations and was placed into a program that could have led to his employment as a janitor in a school).

Now is the intriguing tidbit I failed to discover originally: Richardson's mother works at the Supreme Court. To most people, this might suggest a lack of impartiality, but not to the West Virginia Supreme Court when Warren McGraw was on the bench. McGraw saw no problem with ruling on cases when his own brother was a party with high stakes.

Of course, this leaves us with the no-win (for the Starcher-McGraw-Albright triumvirate, anyway) question of whether the justices were swayed by the defendant's mother working for them or whether McGraw and Albright were just following the lead of Let 'em Loose Larry, as they did when they let convicted child molester Tony Arbaugh remain on probation after he grossly violated the probation that was imposed in lieu of a 15-35 year prison sentence as part of a very generous plea deal. Before the school involved discovered the arrangement and halted it, Arbaugh was in a "rehabilitation" program that would have eventually placed him in employment as a janitor in a school. Note: in both the Arbaugh and Richardson cases, the convictions stood, but the sentences the circuit judges imposed were overturned as excessive.