Florida Judge’s Creative Sentences Get National Media Attention


After Lake County, Fl., Judge Donna Miller granted an early release to a 345-pound jail inmate who lost weight, CBS called, Fox offered to send a limo, and ABC left messages for her, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Miller, 64, who often uses alternative sentences in her misdemeanor court, was surprised by the swift and diverse reaction to the “lose-a-pound, gain-a-day” offer she extended to George McCovery, 37, who earned a jail term by driving with a suspended license. The judge let him trim nine days off his jail stay by losing 25 pounds in 20 days.

“How is it strange that I should find creative ways to change bad behavior,” Miller said. A Sentinel story on the case appeared in newspapers across the U.S. and in London and was picked up by national TV programs that invited Miller to explain her decision on live broadcasts. She won praise for creativity but drew criticism for acting “like a social worker” instead of a judge. During a phone appearance Sunday on “Fox & Friends Weekend,” the judge discussed some of her creative sentences, including the punishment she handed down to McCovery, a South Florida man who suffers from high blood pressure. Miller, a judge for 17 years who is featured on “Lake Courts,” a TV program on a community-access channel that replays criminal proceedings in her courtroom, said she also imposes jail sentences when jail is right.

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