Paris Hilton: Back to the Slammer

It is beyond dispute that the overwhelming majority of issues involving Paris Hilton are worth no commentary. Her recent petite stint in confinement does raise a few issues that are worth of some contemplation and commentary: the interaction between the trial judge and the sheriff.

The prosecutor’s office filed a motion to have the court hold the sheriff in contempt of court for releasing the young woman. Sheriff Lee Baca announced that Ms. Hilton would be released because of an undisclosed “medical condition.” In response, Rocky Delgadillo, city attorney, requested that the sentencing judge order Ms. Hilton back into custody. This the judge did, to Ms. Hilton’s great chagrin and howling protest.

In his original order the judge, Superior Court Judge Michael Sauer, had specified that Hilton was not to be released early or allowed to use an electronic monitoring device in lieu of incarceration. Nonetheless, L.A. Superior Court Public Information Officer, Allen Parachini, stated “Early release decisions are the province of the sheriff every day due to jail overcrowding . . .” This early release, however, indeed appeared to contradict the sentence adjudged by the courts and the judge’s specific instructions to not release Ms. Hilton early. Why isn’t there more effective judicial oversight or control over willy-nilly early release decisions like this?

Some of the questions raised by this case include the ability of executive branch agencies, specifically the sheriff’s department, to ignore the order of the trial judge. If a trial judge sentenced an accused to a period of confinement, or any other punishment, the executive branch, specifically the governor, can reduce the severity of punishment by exercising the executive prerogative of clemency. This clemency may even include commuting the death sentences of every last inmate on death row, as Gov’nor Ryan, Illinois, pulled in 2003.

With the trial judge specifying in his order that Hilton could not be released early, he appears to be encroaching on the executive branch. For example, could a judge sentence an accused to life in prison, or death, and specify that this sentence must be carried out? What if a governor suspended the death penalty in the state, would she then be held in contempt for failing to implement the judge’s order?

This post does not have all of the answers, or any for that matter. But as the legal documents become available it should be possible to analyze this case. That is, analyze it on a level beyond the outfit she decided to don and her hair color. Any information or discussion of this issue is eagerly awaited.



1 Comment

Filed under Criminal Law, Law

One response to “Paris Hilton: Back to the Slammer

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