A widely-respected judge of South Carolina has come up with a creative and unusual way to be fair in sentencing. After Cassandra Bell Tolley pleaded guilty to charges of drunk driving and seriously injuring two persons, the judge sentence her to eight years in jail followed by five years in probation for substance abuse. However, Tolley told the judge that she was a Christian, and that her substance abuse stemmed from being physically abused as a child by a relative.
When Tolley was 11 years old, that relative doused her in gasoline and set her on fire. Scar marks are still visible on her face. Long years of physical abuse by others turned her to seek relief in alcohol ultimately resulting in the accident which left one man permanently disabled and dependent upon the care of his family, and another seriously injured. The judge added another part to the sentence: Read the Old Testament book of Job and write a summary. Tolley agreed.
Kenneth Gaines, a University of South Carolina professor of law said, “Under normal circumstances … You can’t just arbitrarily add anything you want to a sentence … But if she consented, it’s really not an issue. It’s critical that the defendant was in entire agreement with it.”
Reverend Duncan, who came forward as a character witness on behalf of Tolley and told the court that he would take custody of Tolley’s two children – a 6 year old girl and an 8-year old boy – and properly look after them while Tolley is away in prison, said the judge’s choice of the Bible book is telling of his compassion. Another child of Tolley, who is an infant, would be left in care of the father of the child.
The book of Job tells the story of a righteous father of ten children who lost all his possessions, whose children were all killed, and who suffered from painful sores. But he kept his faith in God and overcame all difficulties. His health was restored, and his possessions doubled, and he had another ten children.
Reverend Duncan said “I think (the judge’s) faith and his compassion led him to use the book of Job … Job made it through, and he wants her to know she can too.”