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Probation rates for murder, assault higher in Jackson County

In Jackson County, Missouri, you are more likely to get away with murder -- or at least with a lighter sentence for committing murder. New statistics show that 15 convicts in the past five years have received only probation after they were found guilty of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. It appears that Jackson County is the most lenient jurisdiction in the region when it comes to convictions for this type of deadly crime.

Experts say that the statistics are simply indicative of the way in which Jackson County tends to handle most of its criminal convictions. Violent criminals convicted of assault crimes also tend to avoid jail time altogether, with even those accused of the worst robbery crimes never spending time behind bars. In fact, many offenders in the area are given second, third and even fourth opportunities to straighten up before they are finally sentenced to hard time.

Advocates in the area say that they are constantly fielding complaints from victims about the leniency of the sentences. To be clear, in some cases the voluntary manslaughter and murder offenders spend some time in custody on lesser charges such as armed criminal action -- but they certainly do not get the book thrown at them for the more serious violations. Judges tended to cut sentences even shorter than the minimum recommended by state law. For second-degree murder, prosecutors do not have to prove premeditation; that standard is also missing for voluntary manslaughter. Prosecutors and judges say the sentences are legal and fair.

Numbers show that Jackson County is among the most lenient jurisdictions in the state, which may be good news for those accused of robbery or facing assault charges. Prosecutors reportedly often agree to probation as a component of a plea deal. Defendants deserve fair sentences from the courts, no matter the nature of their crimes.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Jackson leads all counties in probation for 2nd-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter" Mark Morris and Glenn E. Rice, Aug. 02, 2014

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