Texoma residents want a court system tough on crime and that's exactly what they are getting. Newschannel 6 discovered North Texas courts slap harsher sentences on criminals that what's usually recommended. However, sentencing a criminal is done on a case by case basis.
“Each person, each case is different,” Wichita County Sheriff David Duke said.
Punishments can be so different, Texomans are often frustrated. Newschannel 6 talked to a few Texomans off camera and they said they felt the courts were too tough on criminals, but there are many more who don't feel the same.
“Our justice system doesn't treat them as criminals. They treat them as pampered guests,” Jack Phipps said.
Over 150 people talked about this issue on the Newschannel 6 Facebook page. Most of them said the justice system is too lenient and that the punishment needs to match the crime.
However before anyone is put behind bars, the courts reference the
. It's nearly 600 pages long. It's a complex guide that helps judges determine punishment.
“A lot of times it depends on what the crime is. What their criminal history is. How many times they've been to prison. If they've been to prison at all. There's a lot of things,” Sheriff Duke said.
Judges look at an offence and cross is with their level of criminal history to come up with a score. This points the judge to a recommended sentence range, or guideline.
The court room is where Texoma stands out as being tough on crime. Nationwide only two-percent of the convicts are sentenced above the guideline. Put a target on North Texas, and that number jumps to seven-percent.
Sheriff Duke said, “We see all kinds of crimes that happen and they all are different. There the same kinds of charge, but their circumstances are always different.”
Testimony's, plea deals and other factors can also influence a sentence. According the U.S.S.C. 97-percent of cases don't even go to trial. This is because the defendant agrees to a plea bargain.
Sheriff Duke said the biggest problem in Wichita County is drugs. Narcotics are the crime that fuels all other crimes.
Newschannel 6 reached out to the Wichita County District Attorney's office and Wichita County District Judges for comment, but they were either out of town, or weren't willing to talk about the issue.