Closer to Justice for Pamela Davis

December 02, 1993

By halving the prison sentence of Pamela Snowhite Davis to one year, a three-judge panel has brought her sentence more in line with the gravity of her crime. She may not have received the vindication she craved, but the panel partially agreed with her contention that the original sentence handed down by county Circuit Court Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. was overly harsh.

When Judge Beck decreed that Davis serve two years in prison for her conviction for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, for maintaining a common nuisance and for possession of drug paraphernalia, he was really punishing her for her strident advocacy to legalize marijuana.

Considering that the judge's typical sentence for first-time offenders for similar offenses in the past two years ranged from probation before judgment to 90 days in jail, Judges Francis M. Arnold, Luke K. Burns Jr. and Donald M. Smith had little choice but to reduce her sentence. The one-year prison term was a judicial compromise, maybe even a political one. Rather than humiliate their colleague, who clearly was singling Davis out for special punishment, the judges pointed out that the sentencing guidelines call for a maximum sentence of one year for maintaining a common nuisance. Because Judge Beck's sentence was twice as long as the recommended prison term, the judges cut it to the longest possible sentence within the state guidelines. The judges accomplished two goals: They reduced Davis' prison term and helped Judge Beck save face.


Davis helped her cause considerably by expressing contrition for violating drug laws. The judges correctly pointed out Davis might have received a shorter sentence in the first place had she been more remorseful before Judge Beck.


Last Monday, we congratulated Westminster for its exceptional pedestrian safety record. It got an award from the Automobile Association of America for the fact that not one pedestrian had been killed Westminster in 12 years. We failed to note, however, that on Nov. 4 this streak ended. John Fisher, 41, died that evening while crossing Route 140. We hope his unfortunate death marks the start of another safe streak.

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