Should Mike Anderson III go free?

posted at 9:11 pm on April 15, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham

So, here’s the deal.

Fifteen years ago, as a young and admittedly troubled man, Cornealious “Mike” Anderson was convicted of armed robbery after he and friends stuck up a Burger King manager making a deposit. After his conviction, he posted bond and was released during the appeals process. His appeals failed and he waited for the state to tell him to report to prison. He waited and waited. He called his lawyer who told him to just keep waiting. The state would surely come for him.

The state never came. In the meantime, he got married, had four kids, and led a law-abiding life. He lived under his name, registered a business, and never tried to hide. A clerical error told Missouri officials Anderson was already in jail. In 2013, when he was to be released, Missouri finally realized its oversight. They sent a SWAT team to pick up Anderson and make him serve his 13-year-sentence. He was 22 when he was convicted. He’ll now be 50 with grown children if he serves all his time.

You can listen to Anderson’s story, below. For what it’s worth, the victim, who was deeply affected by his mugging, doesn’t think Anderson should be imprisoned:

“It’s their fault, so I mean it’s like they’re going to try and penalize him for another 13 years,’’ said the man, identified only as Dennis on “This American Life.” “That don’t seem right.”

Some argue that if the hope or point of prison is rehabilitation, then Anderson’s already rehabilitated. That much is certainly true. But part of a prison sentence is simply punitive. Should Anderson have to pay that debt regardless of his status as a stand-up citizen?

On the other hand, doesn’t the state have to pay a price for its mistake? If any of us had neglected to, say, pay our tax bills for 13 years there’d damn sure be a penalty involved. I’d rather let these children keep their father and let the state keep collecting the tax revenue from his business and his family full of current and future decent citizens rather than spending money to keep him in jail.

A petition to the Missouri AG for his release has almost 20,000 signatures.

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Comment pages: 1 2

Neither. The point of our system should be to mete out justice. It should do so in a way that makes victims whole (where it can), but that should not be the primary purpose.

GWB on April 16, 2014 at 11:16 AM

Is 13 years for robbery with a bb gun justice? Penalty proportional to the crime?

Even if it’s your view that 13 years was a just sentence originally, is it still just in the full context of this case?

As for me, I think it is better to be Right On Crime than to simply lock people up and throw away the key when it isn’t necessary.

To be clear, there are people who should be locked up and the key thrown away. But we do that to far too many people to whom it should not be done at far to great a cost to all of us.

Texas Zombie on April 16, 2014 at 11:21 AM

So in your world mercy has no place in justice…blah blah blah…
Skwor on April 16, 2014 at 9:01 AM

No, you essentially implied that Bluegill is ‘evil’ because, in her opinion, justice wasn’t served. That is deranged.

zoyclem on April 16, 2014 at 11:22 AM

I personally think that simple probation would be a bit too lenient. I think he should be required to do some sort of community service also. But society as a whole will suffer sending to man to prison at this point. So unless you like biblical justice in the form of “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” there is no reason to destroy this family. Over a crime long since past.

OBQuiet on April 16, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Shades of Les Misarables in this case, no?

Texas Zombie on April 16, 2014 at 11:24 AM

Is 13 years for robbery with a bb gun justice? Penalty proportional to the crime?

Texas Zombie on April 16, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Yes. I think it is. However, that’s not the argument (whether 13 years was a proper sentence for armed robbery). The argument is whether it is just for him to serve that sentence.

Go read my other comments on the first page before you start in. I’m not going to repeat my position here.

GWB on April 16, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Is the point of our criminal justice system to make The State whole, or to make victims whole and reform criminals?

Answer that question and you’ll answer the question in the headline.

Texas Zombie on April 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM

It is neither. It is to establish a connection between behaviors we deem to be criminal and consequences that will flow directly from that behavior.

You step in front of bus, you get mangled. Thinking about committing armed robbery should create a similar degree of trepidation that thinking of stepping in front of a moving bus creates. There must be a consequence.

Moreover, by linking criminal behavior to negative consequences we create the justification for denying vengeance to the victim. The society can establish fair consequences instead of letting wrong parties engage in clan warfare.

The consequences are not ‘punishment’ or ‘revenge.’ They are simply the consequences to the behaviors. They set the framework of social reality that makes contemplating engaging in bad behavior foolish.

However, that is all somewhat beside the point in this case. The problem here is the denial of justice (consequences to the criminal) that has resulted due to error in the system.

The system already failed. What is now the best way to proceed? Starting the sentence at this point, 13 years after sentencing, is not what the lawmakers or the citizenry had in mind, unless the criminal had been on the run.

He is a different person now. He and the world have moved on. Some sort of clemency seems warranted.

fadetogray on April 16, 2014 at 1:58 PM

The state screwed up and should live with the consequences.

At least we know that the Dept of Corrections has no interest in correcting anything. Its propaganda at its finest.

Spliff Menendez on April 16, 2014 at 4:53 PM

…I’d say that he should be free. He wasn’t on the run – they messed up. The sentence time is passed, and it wasn’t enforced. Not his fault.

ebrawer on April 16, 2014 at 7:55 PM

Cases like this are exactly what Executive Clemency, and pardons, are for. And Statutes of Limitations!

Look, the guy was ready and (more-or-less) willing to serve his sentence. IMHO, after the time of the sentence would have expired, then the Stature of Limitations has expired as well. Give this guy a suspended sentence, or commute it to “time served”. Maybe some probation for a few years, just for good measure.

But after this much time, and it wasn’t his fault?
It’s OVER.

ReggieA on April 16, 2014 at 9:20 PM

I’m going to point out, again, that he informed the state IN WRITING that he was not in jail.

Asurea on April 17, 2014 at 3:29 AM

He did that 11 years ago, by the way.

Asurea on April 17, 2014 at 3:30 AM

Comment pages: 1 2