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"Under normal circumstances, the judge wouldn't have the authority to do that..."
A judge in Rock Hill, South Carolina, has issued a sentence that may have some cheering and others...scratching their heads. Circuit Court Judge Michael Nettles not only gave Cassandra Tolley, 28, an eight-year prison sentence, substance abuse counseling and five years of probation for drunk driving, but he also mandated that she do a Bible study. Yes, that's right -- as in a reading and examination of the Holy Bible.
But Nettles didn't just tell Tolley that she could read any scripture. He chose a specific book, Job. And, he told the woman that she must write a summary of the Old Testament book for the court. Tolley complied with the sentence and, according to her lawyer, has already commenced the assignment.
As The Christian Post notes, some have already wondered about the constitutionality of a judge choosing a Bible-based punishment. According to Kenneth Gaines, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, the defendant's consent makes the scripture reading and summary perfectly legal.
"Under normal circumstances, the judge wouldn't have the authority to do that…You can't just arbitrarily add anything you want to a sentence," he told The Herald of Rock Hill. "But if she consented, it's really not an issue. It's critical that the defendant was in entire agreement with it."
Some people in the courtroom also agreed with the rare ruling, seeing it as compassionate and citing the abuse Tolley faced throughout her life as a basis for understanding her struggles. The Herald explains:
Nettles declined to comment. But those who were in court that day agreed his decision reflects compassion not just for the victims, but for Tolley, who after years of abuse turned to alcohol.
Tolley, 28, told her pastor and Sikora that a relative repeatedly abused her physically as a child.
On Thanksgiving Day, when Tolley was 11, Sikora said, a relative doused her with gasoline and set her on fire.
Burn scars are visible on her face.
Since moving to Rock Hill from Ohio, Tolley occasionally attended New Vision Free Will Baptist Church, where she met the Rev. Daggett Duncan.
“She’s a very, very, very humble, distraught person,” Duncan said. “Looking in her eyes, you could see the pain. You just couldn’t help but reach out.”
Back in November, Tolley, clearly inebriated, drove on the wrong side of the road and hit a car. As a result of the accident, she seriously injured two men. During the court proceedings, she pleaded guilty and publicly proclaimed her Christian faith.
Considering the choice of Job, a story that highlights suffering and overcoming the odds, it makes sense why -- considering the plights of both the perpetrator and the victims -- Nettles chose the reading.
(H/T: Christian Post)
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