Archived Story

Something to think about

Published 6:27pm Saturday, January 11, 2014

A little over three years ago, a young Beaufort County man asked for a ride from an acquaintance. It turns out it was one of the worst mistakes of his life. The teen giving him the ride and another teen were on their way to rob a man in Bath.

They parked around the corner from the man’s home, and the young man in need of a ride stayed in the car, out of sight from the Main Street house the other two had broken into. For the next 1 1/2 hours, he remained in the car, talking to his girlfriend on a phone, as the driver came and went, loading up the car with stolen property. What he didn’t know was that, in the course of the robbery, a man was beaten to death in his own home.

The man who stayed in the car, and who would later be extremely cooperative with investigators, was sentenced last year to minimum of 50 months in prison for his role in the crime. His role in the crime was not reporting it to authorities.

Go back to 2009, and in neighboring Pitt County, a woman was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head, her body set on fire. Her fiancé was arrested for the crime. For the past four years, he denied responsibility for her death. After a trial that ended in a hung jury last year, the man pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter on Friday. Having served 46 months in prison, he was released Friday, as he had fulfilled the minimum 38-month, maximum 55-month, sentence.

There are, obviously, differences in these two crimes — one was premeditated murder; the other, as some officials have said, a crime of passion. There are, of course, factors that weight sentencing, for example, prior felony convictions.

But how is it that the man whose crime was to say nothing to prevent a robbery and again say nothing after a murder was committed receives more prison time than the one who actually pleads guilty to taking a woman’s life, then attempting to cover up the crime?

Perhaps it’s the jurisdiction. Perhaps it’s the many circumstances surrounding each crime. Perhaps, while no system is perfect, our system of structured sentencing is seriously flawed.

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