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Injudicious Judges

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In Dhanbad, India, Judge Sunil Kumar Singh has been trying to settle a 20-year-old land dispute involving temples of the Hindu gods Ram and Hanuman and has become impatient, according to a December BBC News dispatch from Patna. One priest claims the land belongs to him, but most locals say the temples own it, and Judge Singh, exasperated, recently placed ads in local newspapers asking Ram and Hanuman to come to court personally and address the issue.

Judges Fond of Probation: An unnamed Children's Court judge in Melbourne, Australia, sentenced eight boys to probation in November even though he had found them guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage girl, setting her hair on fire, spitting and urinating on her, and filming the episode. (There was no jail time, but the youths were assigned to a rehabilitation program teaching "positive sexuality"!)

Britain's Judge Francis Gilbert in November sentenced a 28-year-old woman to probation for her eighth conviction for false claims of rape, involving seven men over a six-year period. In one case, police said, she called them "every two or three days" to keep the investigation alive.

A Jury Fond of Probation: A Brownsville, Texas, jury in December found Traci Rhode guilty of shooting her husband to death in his sleep, but rejected the prosecutor's recommended sentence of 60 years, opting instead for 10 years' probation and a $10,000 fine. (She did serve two days in jail after the guilty verdict was announced, but before sentencing, but Rhode's lawyer was outraged even at that: "Can you imagine the shock," he told the jury, "of being locked up for two days in a 4-by-8 cell with cement walls, in isolation?") Texas subsequently passed a law banning probation as the punishment for murder.

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