This excellent article is from Hannah Whittenly a mother of two and a freelance writer out of Sacramento, California.
In 1999, at age 22, Cornealious Michael Anderson was convicted of robbery and sentenced to a 13-year prison term. He was released on bail while he appealed his conviction. According to bail bond specialists Absolute Bail Bonds, the judge sets the amount of the bail and gives the accused criminal the chance to enjoy freedom before proven guilty. For smaller crimes, the bonds are usually set in standard amounts much like a traffic violation. Anderson was able to pay the bail after his arrest, but never was asked to return to the jail cell. His lawyer advised him to wait until the courts came to get him.
Days, months and years passed with no one to show up. He continued living in the same town, kept his same name, got married and had four children. He was active in his church and a law-abiding citizen with no further blemishes to his record.
Suddenly, in 2013, authorities realized that Anderson was still on bail and sent a SWAT team to arrest him. He was taken to a maximum security prison where he was supposedly to serve the time that he owed the state. The story caught on and generated a buzz throughout the nation. A petition for his release has been started that will be sent to the Attorney General of the State of Missouri as well as to the sentencing judge. 35,00 people signed this petition.
As of May 5, 2014, Anderson is a free man. The judge needed all of 10 minutes to decide that Anderson was worthy to walk away free. Judge Terry Lynn Brown was quoted in saying “You’ve been a good father, you’ve been a good husband. You’ve been a good taxpaying citizen of the state of Missouri. That leads me to believe that you are a good man and a changed man.” Anderson’s family and friends wept upon hearing these words from Judge Brown.
There have been some concerns voiced over this decision. But Judge Brown could not have been more right in his decision to let Anderson free. Here are some important reasons why:
- One of the main reasons for sending people to prison is for rehabilitation. For 14 years, this man lived an exemplary life. He has demonstrated that he has been rehabilitated and is an asset to society, not a threat. He completely re-thought his life, and made the necessary changes to walk down a different path of life. He was a football coach, a man of faith, a husband, father, and an entrepreneur.
- Anderson has been a business owner and a tax-paying citizen. He is an asset to his community, and to our nation at large. America should reward those who make a valuable contribution to the image of an American Citizen. Putting a law-abiding citizen in prison is a drain on taxes and serves no purpose other than to exact punishment.
- There is no need to punish this man any further. He likely worried every day that authorities would arrest him. That is emotional punishment. Also, the purpose of punishment is to teach someone not to repeat their mistakes. He has not repeated his mistake so there is no need for further punishment.
- If Anderson had not been arrested, convicted and sentenced, and the crime had never been solved, the statute of limitations would have run out and he could not now be charged with the crime. By law, there should be a statute of limitations that would prevent the state from arresting a man to serve a sentence when, as in Anderson’s case, he is not fleeing from the law or taking any measures to avoid apprehension. He was simply waiting.
- The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. It is both cruel and unusual to swoop in and arrest a man who has lived an exemplary life for 14 years as a law-abiding sentence.
- The state made the mistake here, not Anderson. It should not be allowed to simply say, “Oops” after 14 years and take this man into custody. He has not been a fugitive and the mistake was solely the fault of the state. Even the man Anderson was convicted of robbing says the state “dropped the ball” and Anderson has earned his right to remain free. Had Anderson’s pattern of crime continued, the state would be justified in bringing this old, expired issue into the legal light for consideration.
I can’t help but think of the plot of Les Miserables as I follow the story of Anderson. I see a man who changes and finds a new man within himself. The new self is embraced and the old is left so far behind, that the old man is unrecognizable. The story is quite beautiful. I join with the millions who rejoice over the release of this modern-day Jean Valjean.