GA Prosecutors Argue Sentence Review Panels Are Illegal


Georgia’s prosecutors have persuaded legislators to phase out judicial panels that review and sometimes reduce prison sentences, the Associated Press reports. A former district attorney is trying to go further. In a legal challenge that could affect the sentences of dozens of inmates whose sentences have been shortened, the Georgia Supreme Court today is considering whether the whether the process is constitutional. Former District Attorney J. Brown Moseley said he challenged the law because he was outraged by the “knuckle-head judges” who cut the sanction for Sandra Widner, whose manslaughter sentence was shortened from 15 years to eight. “I want to keep her in prison everyday she’s supposed to be there,” he said

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have long been at odds over the review panels, created three decades ago by lawmakers who said they could foster more uniformity across Georgia in criminal sentencing. The defense bar considers the panels an extra line of defense where they can appeal unjustified sentences. Officials estimate about 3 percent of the 1,000 cases submitted each year are reduced. The challenge stems from Widner’s decision to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the 2002 fatal shooting of her boyfriend. Moseley said he could have convicted her on murder “in a heartbeat.”


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