Project Reader Reaction

Hail Judge Quinn! Plea was wrong

District Judge Stephen Quinn on Monday rejected a plea agreement involving a man accused of shooting a Clovis police detective. Keith Bessette has recovered from his wounds and is now working with police in Iraq. Timothy Michael Burke, 52, is paralyzed from the chest down, a result of officers returning fire.

If the plea had been accepted, Burke would have received a suspended sentence, though his chances of release from a medical facility are “low,” according to court records.
The judge’s rejection of the plea agreement means Burke will probably face trial. Prosecutor Brett Carter said the suspect may end up spending the rest of his life in a medical facility even if he’s convicted.

A recent Project: Reader Reaction question asked for opinions on the judge’s ruling, which followed lobbying efforts by police officers.

Some responses:

“I BELIEVE THAT ALL cases involving assaults on peace officers should be prosecuted to the full limit of the law. It is tough enough being in law enforcement without declaring open season on them by allowing pleas that amount to a slap on the wrist.”
— John Frey, Clovis

“I AM VERY PROUD of Judge Quinn and our police officers. We are not sending a strong message to criminals if we continue to let them off with plea bargains. Our law enforcement people work very hard to apprehend criminals; it is the responsibility of the court to hand down the proper sentences.”
— Kay Arvizu, Clovis

“SINCE THE POLICE WERE also the victims of this assault against Bessette, they are quite within the role of ones who have a direct interest in the effect of a plea bargain. Therefore, it is appropriate for them to lobby just as civilian friends and relatives of a victim of crime would do when a plea bargain is offered to the person who committed a crime against them. No difference.”
— Carolyn Spence, Clovis

“HAIL JUDGE QUINN! ACCEPTANCE of a plea agreement with no jail time for an assault on a police officer is simply unreasonable. The police officer represents the very core of law and law enforcement, and lack of respect for him (her) should be dealt with severely. … To the slammer!”
— Harold Burris, Clovis

“I THINK IT SENDS a clear message that the courts will have no mercy on scumbags that shoot police. Police shouldn’t have to lobby a judge to get him to rule in their favor either. Common sense should prevail here. The plea bargain is an insult to the most underpaid and underappreciated U.S. profession.”
— Richard Lopes, Clovis

“I AM IN AGREEMENT with the police (officers). I think the plea-bargaining agreements have gone too far. It is true that plea bargaining saves taxpayers money, but it also lets criminals off the hook from serving the time for the crime they committed.”
— Mac McDonald, Clovis

“I, FOR ONE, WAS glad to hear the judge rejected the plea agreement. The shooting of anyone is serious, and there should never be any type of plea agreement for anyone who shoots someone. Let’s face it — do it once, they can do it again.”
— Dan Toledo, Clovis

“I AGREE WITH THE plea agreement being rejected. Why do people always think they don’t have to pay for their crimes? I give Judge Quinn a thumbs up for his rejection. Why should the criminal get a shorter sentence after attacking a detective?

“Detective Keith Bessette and his family didn’t get a short sentence of pain and suffering, so why should the man who attacked him?”
— Ardyth Elms, Clovis