Judge Michael Nettles’ decision to tack a biblical assignment onto the sentence of a drunken driver in York County has people from South Carolina to Europe and beyond talking.
Cassandra Belle Tolley, 28, pleaded guilty in June to a drunken driving crash in Rock Hill that left two people seriously injured – one had to have rods and screws surgically implanted to support his spinal column, the other has undergone six surgeries and could still lose his left foot. Nettles, a Lake City native and resident judge in the Florence-based 12th Circuit, accepted the plea and sentenced Tolley to eight years in prison followed by five years probation and substance abuse counseling. But Nettles added an unusual sentence stipulation: He ordered that Tolley read the Book of Job and complete a summary of it.
The unusual sentence set tongues to wagging – and Nettles’ phone to ringing. Religious, judicial and government experts across the nation and around had pondered the decision for what it says about the always-thorny separation of church and state. Most experts say it almost certainly violates that prohibition — and whether or not it might have been an abuse of judicial power. Is forcing someone to read the Book of Job and write a report on it a form of “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is prohibited by the Constitution? ….MORE