I want to give credit to Dr. Phil for a thoughtful show on a complex and emotional issue Yesterday’s show discussed the sentencing of Ashley Toye for her involvement in the murders of two teenagers, known locally as the Cash Feenz cases. He did a good job of presenting arguments from both sides, interviewing family members of both Ms. Toye and of the victims. He also got comments from Ms. Toye appellate attorney, Stu Pepper, and Samantha Syoen who is the communications director for the State Attorney’s Office here in Lee County. The show struggled a bit when he went to the screen and started listing bullet points of the arguments. I think the points on both sides were valid, but he was trying to distill a very complex and reasoned discussion into too short a period of time.
More importantly, I’m glad the discussion is being debated on the sentencing of Juveniles. The Supreme Court mandated that States cannot automatically sentence juveniles to life without parole, as was the case for Ms. Toye. However, under current Florida law, Ms. Toye’s sentence cannot be changed. Dr. Phil is not advocating that it must be changed, he is rather making an argument that a hearing should be held to determine if the sentence is appropriate. The Supreme Court found such automatic sentences to be unconstitutional, it would follow that such a hearing should be held. Perhaps a life sentence is appropriate, but the factors are not currently allowed to be analyzed. Both Dr. Phil, and his legal consultant Sunny Hostin, stated on the show that they feel that it would be appropriate to hold such a hearing. Crimcourts agrees that a sentencing hearing weighing all factors is a good idea, and automatic sentences always run the risk of disproportionate injustice. Perhaps the sentence is just in this case, but we cannot know that without considering the evidence and making an informed ruling.
On a side note, Stu Pepper’s movie, The Cover Up, is being shown on the Lifetime Movie network Sunday at 6 am. I’ve seen it, and it is worth watching- set your DVR!