Justice reflects judge’s manner

Remember the stories of Isaac C. Parker, better known as the hanging judge?

A famed figure of the Wild West, Parker was raised in Ohio, then made his way to Missouri after passing the bar in 1859.

Parker’s fame arrived in 1875 when he became a federal judge out of Fort Smith, Ark. It was there that Parker presided over cases that focused attention on the Indian Territory – later to become Oklahoma – and where his reputation as being the dispenser of swift and hard justice began.

Parker was intolerant with those found guilty of the most hideous crimes. He was also fair and sometimes even lenient when he would grant retrials, reduced sentences or acquittals because due process had not been fulfilled.

Writers of cowboy novels and western movies left out one detail involving Parker – he opposed the death penalty. Yet, he remained true to the letter of the law and its requirements when it came to determining innocence, guilt or sentencing at the end of a rope.

On Tuesday, the trial was scheduled to begin in the 32nd Judicial District Court of Louisiana for Angelo Vickers, Floyd Howard, Christopher Turner and Darwin Brown on charges that include molestation of a minor during a series of incidents that allegedly took place while they worked as guards in the Terrebonne Parish Juvenile Detention Center in 2009. These four men, along with John Gathen, Darrin Carter and Chad Griffin – the latter three are to be tried at a later date – will appear before Judge Randy Bethancourt.

Judge Bethancourt is a former assistant district attorney who, as a judge, showed leniency in a case where he thought the offender could improve her behavior if given a light sentence. He acquitted a suspected child molester when a lack of evidence prompted him to rule that, “Probably guilty, or could have been guilty, is not guilty.” Bethancourt is also the judge who sentenced convicted serial killer Ronald Dominique to eight consecutive life sentences.

In 1896 Judge Parker was quoted as having said, “Permit no innocent man to be punished, but let no guilty man escape.”

In a trial that is expected to last two weeks, it will be seen how those who have allegedly violated their positions of trust are dealt with when justice and order of the law are still expected.