Segments in this Video

Mandatory Minimums (01:53)


Greg Newburn argues that fixed prison sentences for certain crimes are expensive, without benefiting society. In 2009, Orville Lee Wollard was sentenced to 20 years for aggravated assault with a firearm in Florida. He says he fired a warning shot to scare away his daughter's boyfriend.

Appealing Wollard's Sentence (03:26)

Medical malpractice attorney Sharon Elmaleh is fighting for Wollard's release on principle. His original lawyer failed to call key witnesses. Florida defense attorney Jaya Balani says the jury discredited Wollard's self-defense explanation, without knowing there was a 20 year mandatory minimum.

An Unlikely Criminal (03:07)

Joe Berlinger interviews Wollard in prison. He rejected a plea deal, believing he would not be sentenced to a mandatory minimum for defending his family in his home. If he had shot his assailant, he may have gone free under Florida's Stand Your Ground law.

America's Murder Capital (02:38)

Gun violence has skyrocketed in Chicago. Honors student Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was shot while in a park with friends; her killer had been released on a gun charge. Local politicians push for mandatory minimum legislation to deter violence.

Mandatory Minimum Argument (02:51)

Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy explains that Hadiya’s killer, Michael Ward, had been convicted of illegal possession of a firearm but had not been incarcerated. Illinois State Representative Michael Zalewski believes longer sentences will break the violence cycle.

10-20-Life Law (02:59)

An estimated one in 19 Florida residents owns a firearm; Wollard's case illustrates strict penalties for violent gun crime. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says mandatory minimum legislation defends drive-by shooting victims and has reduced crime.

Punished for Protecting Family (02:49)

Wollard's wife Sandy and daughter Sarah discuss his mandatory minimum sentence. The family had to sell their Florida home and move to Wisconsin when he was imprisoned for shooting a gun without harming anyone.

Mandatory Minimum Controversy (02:23)

Hadiya's family, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and law enforcement are advocating for a mandatory gun bill. Illinois State Representative Ken Dunkin says it will cost taxpayers and increase incarceration without deterring crime. Wollard’s 20 year sentence costs Florida taxpayers $400,000.

Returning to a Non-Crime Scene (02:45)

Local reporter Jason Grey says Wollard's defense used his poor health and downplayed family tensions. Wollard describes Sarah's boyfriend physically assaulting him. Sandy takes Berlinger to their former home, where Wollard fired a warning shot to defend his family.

Reenacting Wollard's Shooting Incident (03:36)

At her former home, Sandy walks Berlinger through events leading to her husband firing a warning shot. Two months later, the man returned and accused Wollard of shooting at him.

Aggravated Assault without Intent to Kill (02:46)

Sarah's boyfriend referenced Wollard's warning shot when the Polk County Sheriff responded to a later call; Judd was compelled to open an investigation. Prosecutors theorized that Wollard was angry, rather than afraid for his family's safety; the boyfriend feared for his life.

A Flawed Justice System (02:36)

Wollard was granted an appeal hearing after four years; two witnesses testified that Sarah's boyfriend was violent and a habitual liar. Sarah repressed memories of the incident. Wollard does not blame her for his prison sentence.

Drive-By Shooting Survivor (02:58)

Months after Hadiya's murder, a wave of gun violence hit Chicago. Shamarah Leggett recalls the playground attack that wounded her son Deonte. Bryon Champ had a previous arrest for illegal firearm possession and would have been incarcerated under a mandatory minimum law.

Addressing Roots of Crime (02:32)

Dunkin stalled mandatory minimum legislation in Illinois. He advocates job training and education programs to fight crime. The Pendletons created a fund to engage young people; Leggett wants a better future for Deonte.

Reunited (03:18)

A Polk County judge denied Wollard's retrial request. Sandy visits him in prison for the first time in five years; Wollard fears he will die there. Sandy believes each crime should be judged individually, rather than mandatory minimum sentencing.

Supporting an Armed Society (02:36)

Clemency for Wollard depends on legislation proposed by Florida representative Neil Combee that would legalize warning shots. Wollard maintains he did nothing wrong in defending his family. Sandy feels the justice system failed them.

Credits: Mandatory Sentencing: The System with Joe Berlinger (00:04)

Credits: Mandatory Sentencing: The System with Joe Berlinger

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Mandatory Sentencing: The System with Joe Berlinger

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Joe Berlinger explores the effectiveness and justness of mandatory sentencing in a current climate that preaches reform. In Florida, the unintended consequences of mandatory minimum gun laws seem to outweigh its merits as a father is sent to prison for 20 years for “defending his family.” While in Illinois, politicians carefully craft a 'tough on crime bill' inspired by the death of a promising honours student that may offer relief to a community plagued by escalating gun violence .A man in Florida fires a warning shot in his house and ends up with a 20 year prison sentence. The System examines mandatory sentencing in the U.S.

Length: 47 minutes

Item#: BVL129659

ISBN: 978-1-64023-499-4

Copyright date: ©2015

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