The Georgia Supreme Court is considering a basic law of physics: is a man is banished from the entire state except for a small county in a distant section: how can he get there and, if he does, how can he live. This is the intriguing question presented by a lower court’s sentence that Gregory Mac Terry is banished from all but one of the state’s 159 counties. Banishment has become the rage with state judges but there remains a question of constitutionality, if not impossibility.
The physics of banishment someone from virtually all of the state prompted Georgia Justice Harris Hines to ask “If you’re banished to one central county, how do you get there?” he asked. His colleague, Justice Robert Benham tied to help by suggesting that he fly but no one knew if an airport was available.
The banishment was ordered because of Terry’s obsession with his wife. Douglas Superior Court Judge David Emerson ordered the banishment to assure the wife that see would not have to worry seeing Terry as she moved around the state.
The banishment, however, proved to be a problem when Terry was released from prison in 2001 for a work-release problem. Officials then released that there was no where, particularly in Fulton County, where they could send him. They were forced to give bring him back to prison and given him a new 2009 release date.
Terry was confined to a rural rural Toombs County, which comprises 367 square miles in southeast Georgia. But he does not know anyone in the county, has no job there, and has no place to live there. Once there, he cannot leave the place. That seems less of a parole condition as it is a new form of punishment. The motivation of Emerson is clearly not in question. However, the means is excessive and other alternatives might be available such as voluntary acceptance of electronic monitoring etc.
The sentence raises serious questions of the constitutionality of banishments. As noted in this column, judges are increasingly using creative or caesar like punishment raising such concerns.
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