Tales from the Morgue: Making the punishment fit the crime

2013-08-27T09:45:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Making the punishment fit the crimeJohanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

There was a rash of unusual sentences in 1922. Judges decided convicted criminals and society would be better served by learning lessons instead of being locked away. Of course, these lessons were generally meted out to those convicted of non-violent crimes, but not always.

Though the story isn't local, it did run in the Arizona Daily Star, and is featured here because the Morgue Lady found it entertaining.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Friday, June 9, 1922:

Judges Trying Out New Sentences to Make Punishment Fit the Crime
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Reading of Ten Commandments and Similar Sentences Are Now Popular
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NEW YORK, June 8.—The courts are devising new punishments. Instead of the usual prison confinements, distinctive and adequate alternatives are being offered by judges throughout the country.

Here are a few which have been published during the past few weeks.

"To obey ten new commandments and escape prison.

"Court sentences son to wear text pasted in his hat."

"Sentenced to put 35 cents in collection."

"Made to kiss wife's foot."

"Fine will remind him until 1939 he once ran a still."

As an alternative to going to prison for ten years for robbing a store of $600, Guy Robbins, a farm hand of Urbana, Ill., has agreed to obey ten new commandments laid down by Circuit Judge Sentell, as follows:

1. Go to church or Sunday school at least once each week.

2. Give up cigarette smoking for one year.

3. Stay away from pool halls for one year.

4. Read books selected by the public librarian and report to the probation officer what he reads.

5. Keep employed constantly and keep account of expenditures.

6. Stay off streets at night, except on business.

7. Keep all laws of the state, city or village.

8. Drink no intoxicating liquor.

9. Pay all court costs in $5 monthly installments.

10. Reports to circuit judge the first day of each court term.

Magistrate Snort of the Flatbush court recently thought of a fitting punishment for John Burns, 37 years old, who had been brought to court on a charge of assaulting his 67-year-old father, striking him several blows and dragging him around the floor. As a reminder of this act of cruelty and at the same time a covert admonition to respect his parents, John Burns was sentenced by the judge to paste in his hat the following commandment:

"Honor thy Father and the Mother."

Judge Haas of Chicago also believes in punishment fitting the crime. Arthur Gaines of Chicago was accused by his wife of coming home drunk and moneyless, and abusing her. Between the time he was brought before the judge in February and June 15th, Gaines, who is 29 years old, must attend church every Sunday morning and put 35 cents regularly into the collection plate. On his reappearance in court June 15th, Gaines must present the judge with a written statement from the pastor of his parish testifying to his regular attendance.

This same judge — Haas of Chicago — also has contributed another sentence new to judicial history.

After an attorney had asserted that Constantine Yodas, who was charged with bearing his wife, "was not fit to kiss his wife's foot," Judge Haas disagreed.

"I think he is fit to kiss his wife's foot," he declared, "and I so order." 

Yodas look wildly about, slowly got to his knees, and smacked his wife's shoe twice.

"Now you are on probation," the judge told him.

The Morgue Lady must admit to a little concern for Mr. Yodas' wife, who might pay for his humiliation once they arrive home. She hopes Mrs. Yodas was able to stay with her parents or a friend.

However, except for reporting to the judge each term and paying court costs, Guy Robbins' new commandments sound like decent rules for life.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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