Meet Judge Cupcake

Tony Nelson

Shortly after Jeffrey Douglas Law nearly strangled his estranged wife Erika to death, he called his mother. Telling her how he'd "really fucked up this time," Law said he had tried to kill his wife. He didn't want to face the 15-year prison sentence that would surely be his punishment, so he was about to kill himself.

If Law was serious about killing himself, Brooklyn Park police--called by Law's mother Susan Law--arrived before he could do it. And as it turned out, his guess of the number of years he would likely spend in prison for his crime was just about right. In Minnesota the recommended sentence for those found guilty of second-degree attempted murder is 12-1/2 years. And unless Law's attorney could prove there was a compelling reason for treating him otherwise, Law was almost certain to do the time.

Law pleaded guilty, and at his sentencing hearing on March 16, 2000, Ramsey County prosecutor Michael Hutchinson argued for an even harsher sentence, telling the court that it was obvious Jeffrey Law was a man who cared only for himself. When he tried to kill his wife the previous October, she had been holding their five-month-old son and another infant in her arms. As he choked Erika, she'd dropped the babies. They had lain unattended in the upstairs hallway. When Jeffrey realized he had not killed Erika, he left her barely conscious on the basement floor, and walked out without calling for help.

Law told the judge he was sorry for what he had done. He said he was a "selfish jerk" and a longtime "manipulator" who had done little to overcome his problems with drugs and alcohol. He was angry that his wife was planning to divorce him, he said, and he had intended to kill her.

But, he argued, he was a changed man. In the 18 weeks since the attack, Law told the court, he had been seeing a counselor. He had joined a men's group, stayed sober, and consistently attended AA meetings. He and his attorney urged the judge to disregard the guideline sentence and give Law a chance to put his shattered life back together outside of prison.

After Jeffrey Law told the court why he should not go to prison, Ramsey County District Court Judge James Campbell took a brief recess. When he returned, he began talking. "The most difficult decision that any judge has to make obviously relates to the personal freedom of people who stand in front of them," he said. "After a dozen years of doing this, I think people know that I don't believe a single day in jail longer than necessary is an appropriate sanction. And I'm certainly aware of that in this case."

What happened next can never be fully appreciated by anyone who wasn't actually in the courtroom that day, says Erika Law. Jeffrey Law's crime was serious, Campbell conceded, especially because it involved children. And Law, the judge continued, had better not be lying about being a reformed man. "Mr. Law," Campbell cautioned, "if what you are doing here today is in fact an act, then you should go to prison for the statutory maximum. That's the reality."

But, Campbell hastened to add, he believed the young man who stood before him was telling the truth. So, while he was going to sentence Law to the 20 years in prison that prosecutors had asked for, he wasn't actually going to send him to prison. Instead, Law would spend a year in the workhouse, and then be put on probation for 19 more years, on the condition that he attend family counseling and AA and submit to random drug testing.

"I do not believe, Jeffrey Law, that you are a threat to your wife," the judge said. "I am cautiously optimistic. I have seen a lot of failures in my life, having dealt with this. I have seen a lot of successes. And I prefer to call them miracles. I pray this is one of them."

Erika Law couldn't believe her ears. "I felt victimized all over again," Law recalls. "I felt like [Campbell] made me feel ashamed for the crime that was committed against me. It was clear that he didn't value me, or the safety of my son. Nor did he value women in general. When he said I have nothing to fear from my husband--I mean, he tried to kill me. Of course I have something to fear from him. [Campbell] needs to reevaluate who it is that he is protecting in his courtroom, because it isn't the victim."


Friends introduced Erika and Jeffrey in 1994. She was 25 and he was a year older. They liked each other immediately and soon moved in together. In October 1996 they got married and bought a house in Roseville. Six months later things started to fall apart. Jeffrey had been working steadily as a transportation broker, but he quit and began drifting from job to job. (Jeffrey Law could not be reached to comment for this story.)  

"I thought what was going on was a mental-health issue, and I was willing to work that out," Erika Law says. She dragged her husband to counseling. Later she found out he was using drugs.

"When I found out about the drugs, I was even willing to deal with that. I mean, I know I had blinders on in some ways. I just wanted everything to be okay," she says. "After a while he just didn't function anymore and I took care of everything. He lost his job, and I was working 50- and 60-hour weeks to keep up our household."

Two years later, in May 1999, Erika found marijuana in the house and decided enough was enough. Even though their son was just two weeks old at the time, she asked Jeffrey to leave. "He'd been telling me over and over for months that he wasn't using anymore when he was," she says. "When I found the stuff I just couldn't have it going on in my house anymore, and I asked him to leave."

Jeffrey got an apartment in Brooklyn Park, and Erika stayed at the house in Roseville with the baby. He wanted to reconcile, but first Erika wanted him to attend an in-patient chemical-dependency treatment program, go through aftercare at a halfway house, and promise to attend AA meetings on a regular basis for the rest of his life. In June Jeffrey entered a program at Twin Town, a chemical-dependency facility in St. Paul, but he dropped out. Erika began seeking a divorce and applied for a daycare license so she could stay home with her son and still make ends meet.

She was caring for her first six-month-old customer on the morning of October 25, 1999, when Jeffrey came in through the back sliding glass door and announced that he was going to kill her. Erika was holding the couple's son when she saw her husband. Grabbing the other infant, who was sleeping in the bedroom, she tried to escape.

"I ran to go out the front door and Jeff blocked my way," she later testified. "And I ran to go out the sliding door and Jeff blocked my way. And I went to reach for the telephone and he ripped it out of the wall. And I started screaming. And the baby started screaming. And then I ran down the hall and he grabbed me and we all went down."

At five-foot-three-inches tall and little more than 100 pounds, Erika Law was no match for her husband, who weighed more than 200 pounds and stood nearly six and a half feet tall. "He smothered and choked me with his hands," she continued. "And I had the children in my arms and I had to let go of them because he was choking me and I needed to defend myself. And he trampled the children and kicked the children and they were screaming. And then I passed out."

When Erika came to, Jeffrey was wrapping the belt from her bathrobe around her neck. Choking her as he walked, he dragged her down the basement stairs. Erika's memory of what happened next is hazy, but Jeffrey Law later told police that the attack continued in the basement. After he stopped, he checked her pulse. She was still alive.

Jeffrey Law says he stayed with his wife for about 40 minutes before leaving, but Erika doesn't recall her husband being there after the attack. All she remembers is coming to and thinking that he must have loosened the cord because she could breathe again. Confused, Erika lay on the basement floor unable to stand or yell and afraid that her husband would come back. Eventually she made her way upstairs, put the visiting baby in a crib, gathered up her son, and stumbled to a neighbor's house begging for help.

Jeffrey Law went back to his apartment and called his mother.


Four and a half months later, Law appeared before Judge James Campbell, admitted what he'd done, and pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted murder. Law might as well have won the lottery; the man who was to decide his fate is widely described as one of the most lenient judges in Ramsey County. Campbell himself jokes about it, quipping that some of his friends call him "Judge Cupcake."

A tall man of medium build, Campbell looks right into people's eyes when he speaks. Campbell appears to cultivate a regular-Joe demeanor, favoring sportcoats and simple shirts and ties. His voice is deep and buttery, like that of a late-night radio jazz-show host. He seems genuinely perplexed by the amount of attention the Law case has drawn.  

"I don't know what to tell you," Campbell says with a sigh. "Every time you utter a sentence somebody is going to either be happy or unhappy. But you know I've never sentenced anyone by the name of guidelines. They're all different. Yes, they're all different."

Campbell is tight-lipped about his background. Born in St. Paul on May 12, 1949, he was raised by a single mother. As an undergraduate, he attended the College of St. Thomas. From there he went on to William Mitchell College of Law and graduated in 1975. He was in private practice before being appointed to the Ramsey County District Court by then-Gov. Rudy Perpich in 1988. Two years later he was elected to the same position. He was reelected in 1996.

The job has changed a lot since 1988, Campbell says, and he's not sure he will run for reelection in 2002. "It's becoming a younger person's job. I mean, you really have to think about whether you want to be doing this when you're 60. The volume (of cases) just keeps increasing, and they're not going to increase the number of judges. With so many cases coming before us, you can see why judges make mistakes."

Most of the prosecutors and advocates interviewed for this story would not speak on the record, citing their need to maintain cordial relations with the judge, before whom they must continue to appear. Privately, however, they say that the Law case has drawn much-needed public attention to a longstanding problem. Certainly, everybody makes mistakes, they acknowledge. The problem is that Campbell tends to err in favor of defendants appearing in his courtroom, they say, particularly those there on domestic-violence charges.

"There are a lot of lenient judges in Ramsey County, but Judge Campbell is more than lenient," says one prosecutor. "He doesn't seem to take his job seriously. He doesn't take victims seriously, and he sometimes acts like his job is just a big joke."

"It's really too bad, because he is understanding in some ways and he does listen to people in a down-to-earth way," says another prosecutor. "I do think he has the ability to have been a good judge. But, for whatever reason, he does not take his job seriously. He does not hold defendants accountable."

St. Paul defense attorney Kyle White has found the judge to be more down-to-earth and caring than others. "Campbell is considered to be a very favorable judge by the defense bar, and the Law case was certainly a best-case scenario from the defense's perspective," says White. "But typically I've found him to be one of the most thoughtful and compassionate judges in the state of Minnesota. My own personal opinion is that judges are human. The key is to ask, 'Are they fair and can they hear a case and be civil to everyone involved?' Campbell really listens and extends himself to everyone."

At the same time, White explains, Campbell's critics are not entirely off the mark. "But I've got to be honest with you," he says. "Even the people who like him also think he's gone too far."

Ramsey County courts are like most others in that they don't track the practices of individual judges when it comes to handing down sentences or dealing with certain types of cases. Judges are supposed to have the maximum amount of independence and flexibility to decide how to deal with the individuals who appear before them. If their hands are tied by strict oversight, judges won't be able to make allowances for compelling circumstances.

So right now the only way to really know what is going on in a particular judge's courtroom is to go there and see. In Hennepin County a group called WATCH sends volunteers into courtrooms to monitor judges' performance from the point of view of victims and witnesses. But there is no such group in Ramsey County.

In Minnesota, judges are overseen by the Board on Judicial Standards, a state agency that investigates complaints of misconduct or wrongdoing. Complaints to the board are almost always confidential, says David Paull, executive secretary of the board. The agency can recommend that the state supreme court censure judges, remove them from the bench, or force their retirement. Only when severe wrongdoing is uncovered, says Paull, are the board's proceedings and decisions made public.

Paull can't comment, but Campbell acknowledges that he is the subject of at least three pending complaints before the board. One concerns his handling of Ronald Bakken. According to police reports, on June 19, 1999 Bakken came home late and started arguing with his girlfriend. Bakken dragged the woman out of bed and said he was going to throw her out of the house. She fought him as he dragged her toward the door and ended up with a gash in her forehead that took eight stitches to close. Under the terms of a plea agreement, the main charge against Bakken was reduced to a misdemeanor and an accompanying charge of disorderly conduct was to be dismissed at sentencing.  

When the case came before Campbell for sentencing a month later, however, the judge did not follow the original plea agreement. Instead, he dismissed the more serious assault charge and allowed the man to plead guilty to only disorderly conduct. Bakken, who could have faced up to a year in jail, was ordered to pay a $50 fine.

Campbell acknowledges he made a mistake. He says the problem was a jammed court calendar. The day he sentenced Bakken, he says, his morning schedule was packed. "I had eight domestics on it. Seven of the eight had pled out to reduced charges from domestic assault down to disorderly conduct. The last guy had pled down to simple fifth-degree assault, and in the pandemonium of the morning calendar, I mistakenly confused that case with the seven others and sentenced him to disorderly conduct. It was strictly an error of volume."

It didn't help that the prosecutor in the case was not present at the sentencing--something that's common practice in Ramsey County when a plea agreement has been reached in advance. Campbell says Bakken's attorney should have called his attention to the mistake. Perhaps, say the judge's detractors, but what defense attorney is going to point out that you just let their client off the hook?

Campbell has since apologized to the prosecutor, and he has attempted to correct the mistake, but correcting the mistake on paper now, when it's too late to enforce the terms of the original plea agreement, does little good.

Campbell volunteers that he discussed his version of events at Bakken's sentencing with members of the Board on Judicial Standards at the group's November meeting. He also says that he talked to board members about a complaint alleging that he made an inappropriate joke during an episode that has come to be known around the Ramsey County courthouse as "the cupcake incident."

Last year a group of teens caught drinking beer appeared in the judge's courtroom, Ramsey County prosecutors say the judicial-board complaint alleges. "Well, it's your lucky day," Campbell said as he dropped the charges against the kids, "because I'm Judge Cupcake." Campbell denies using his nickname in front of the youths.

Campbell has also talked to the board about a complaint involving an attorney he threw out of his courtroom. Campbell says the attorney was dawdling; other sources say they have heard that Campbell grew enraged when the attorney's client refused to plead guilty. Prosecutors say a fourth complaint, this one filed by a fellow judge concerning Campbell's behavior in her courtroom, is under investigation by the state board. Campbell declined to comment on this complaint.

Erika Law says she has lodged a fifth complaint with the board, which has said it will investigate. She's slightly disappointed that she was allowed to complain only about Campbell's courtroom demeanor, however. The board can decide whether a judge has violated the Minnesota Code of Judicial Conduct regarding courtroom behavior, conflicts of interest, and incidents of gender or racial bias. But unless fraud is alleged, it does not have the power to look into judges' sentencing practices.

The outcome of the complaints may never be known. In 1999 the board received 144 complaints. Two judges were reprimanded and eight received warnings. None of the actions was made public.

Judges typically face losing their jobs only at election time. And the insular nature of the court system means most people have no idea who local judges are or what they're doing on the bench, says Denise Gamache, associate director of the Battered Women's Justice Project. "Chief justices will sometimes pressure judges to get in line and do things like everyone else, like urging them to follow sentencing guidelines," she says. "But if that doesn't happen, there really isn't anyone else around to ensure that judges rule fairly until it comes time for reelection, and by then most people can't remember who their local judges are."

It would be easier, say prosecutors and advocates for victims of domestic violence, to believe that the incidences of exceptional leniency that have occurred in Judge Campbell's courtroom are isolated episodes if he didn't have such a strong reputation for permissiveness. While most lawyers use all available legal means to avoid certain judges, one prosecutor quips that "defense attorneys move their cases so they can get on Judge Campbell's calendar."  

Erika Law believes that Campbell relied on her husband's version of the facts of the case when he decided to be lenient. And the undisputed details of the crime, she insists, don't square with what Jeffrey Law told the judge. For example, Jeffrey Law told Campbell that he had stayed by his wife's side for 40 minutes after the attack to make sure she was all right--something that's not included in either of the statements the Laws made to police. At Law's sentencing, his attorney, Thomas Plunkett, suggested that this was because Erika Law had suffered a concussion during the assault and couldn't remember. Campbell said he believed Jeffrey Law.

"I suffered a concussion in the attack and I was very confused after having been unconscious a couple of different times as he choked me," says Erika Law. "But I don't recall him staying for 40 minutes to see if I was all right before he left that morning. Jeff says that's what happened and the judge just believed him, and that was a big reason why it seemed like he thought Jeff was not really a threat to me....The judge took the word of an attempted murderer over mine as justification for leniency in this case. What does that say to women? What does that say about our society?"

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner says she heard about the sentence and "knew right away that it was wrong." She was struck by how much weight the judge placed on testimony by several members of AA groups Law had been attending who said Law was a changed man. "The major problem we had with the judge taking these witnesses from his AA group so seriously was that alcohol and chemical dependency had nothing to do with this case," explains Gaertner. "Yes, the defendant had a history of abuse, but by his own admission he was not drunk or using drugs at the time of the crime. We were shocked by the ruling."

Gaertner and her staff immediately decided to appeal the sentence. Campbell was free to "depart" from the recommended sentence, the prosecutors say, but there's too much of a difference between one year in the workhouse and twelve and a half years in prison.

"The most outrageous part of this whole case was that this defendant was treated differently than other defendants," says Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Jean Schleh, who prepared the appeal. "The sentencing guidelines are there so that people, including judges, know that anyone who commits a certain crime gets a particular sentence. In this case, 99 percent of 100 defendants would have gotten the guideline sentence but it seems like this somehow struck a chord with Judge Campbell."

In the late 1970s, the Minnesota Legislature appointed a commission to draw up guidelines for appropriate sentences for different crimes. In 1980, the first set of sentencing guidelines went into effect. In addition to noting how a defendant's criminal history should be taken into account, the guidelines limit how severe sentences can be. Judges can deviate from the guidelines, but drastic departures can occur, according to commission rules, only when there are "substantial and compelling reasons" for them. Gaertner and her colleagues did not believe that Campbell had substantial and compelling reasons for giving Law so much less than the guideline sentence called for. In fact, they'd asked for an "upward departure" to the statutory limit of 20 years.

The guidelines don't apply to misdemeanors, though. And even when domestic assaults should be charged as felonies because of the severity of the crime, they are often charged only as misdemeanors, says Beverly Balos, a law professor at the University of Minnesota. Prosecutors, she explains, are often hesitant to push for felony convictions because they are harder to prove in court. "To me, that speaks to the bias in the system that must be changed," cautions Balos, who studies and lectures on violence against women. "The system puts a priority on resolving cases quickly. It takes time to gather the evidence to prove a felony case."

That gives judges an awful lot of power when it comes to domestic-violence cases. "The court system takes felonies much more seriously than misdemeanors," Balos says. "Judges are expected to stay within the sentencing guidelines when it comes to felonies. There are no hard and fast rules on misdemeanors. Not only does this system minimize the seriousness of misdemeanors when it comes to domestic abuse, but it sets up the question of just how seriously does someone need to be hurt before an assault is considered a felony?"  

Campbell has also been criticized for his handling of the case of a White Bear Lake man charged with killing his wife and then setting fire to her home. In fall of 1999 Jean Weaver, who had recently asked her husband Gordon Weaver for a divorce, was found beaten in the basement of the burning home. Investigators say she was still alive when her body was set ablaze, and that she died of carbon monoxide poisoning. At the time of his arrest, Gordon Weaver's bail was set at $1 million. But Campbell reduced it to $300,000 against the urging of Ramsey County prosecutors who said they believed Weaver would be able to post bail and flee.

Campbell counters that Weaver's defense attorney told him that his client "was almost bankrupt. They say he has no money and that one of the motives is that his business is shot and he's penniless. I thought $300,000 might as well have been a million."

Weaver, who had denied having anything to do with his wife's death, posted bail within a week. When he didn't show up for a scheduled court appearance, police discovered he had left town. His abandoned car was found in Chicago last spring, but there was no sign of Weaver.

In 1988, when Campbell accepted his judicial appointment, he hoped he would have a role in solving people's thorniest problems. "I wanted to be a judge because I wanted to have an impact on people's lives," he recalls. "I wanted to have an impact on the system. I hope I've done a good job. I try to do the best that I can."

Campbell can't understand why his critics haven't stopped to consider what he was trying to do when he gave Law such a seemingly permissive sentence. Domestic violence is the most important crime judges deal with, he says; it's just that doing time isn't always the best way to motivate abusers to change their behavior. "What you want is the longest possible supervision for someone, which is what I attempted to do in the Law sentencing," he explains. "What's going on in my mind is that he's got an infant son, and [20 years of probation] will hang over his head for as long as his son is underage. If he violates, he's out of his son's life.

"I wanted to hang the biggest hammer over his head for the longest period of time," he continues. "Then, if he got out of the workhouse and smoked a joint, he'd go to prison for 19 more years. If he had a drink, he'd go to prison. If he called Erika, he'd go to prison.

"People object to that kind of sentence because it doesn't give people enough front-end time for their crimes," he adds. "But that's my philosophy for dealing with domestic abuse."

Jeffrey Law's attorney, Thomas Plunkett, maintains that Judge Campbell made the right decision. He thinks it is "unfair the way people are portraying Judge Campbell as a defense-oriented judge. He's just being scapegoated, I think."

Campbell disagrees with those who say it is his job to protect the victim. "It's a balance," he explains. "One of the things I learned from a psychiatrist who spoke to us as judges [is that] if a person is angry they won't listen to anything that you say. And so when somebody is standing in front of me in those ridiculous orange and green pajamas with plastic slippers--and in the case of African-Americans whose rubber bands have been taken away so their hair is wild--they're standing there and they don't feel good about themselves. It's not very dignified, so you try to boost them.

"So what you have to do as a judge, if they're going to listen to what you're telling them, is you've got to try to restore some dignity back to them," he continues. "And you do it in such a way that you're not being offensive to the victim and you're balancing that out."

Campbell may be well intentioned, says Denise Gamache of the Battered Women's Justice Project, but she feels that the controversy his rulings have sparked illustrates that the criminal-justice system still needs to work on its approach toward domestic violence. "After nearly 30 years of organizing and education on domestic-violence issues, judges are still making the kinds of statements that Judge Campbell made in the Law case in their courtrooms," she complains. "That just shows how they don't understand or aren't sympathetic enough to these issues to be qualified to rule in these cases."

Mary Louise Klas, a former Ramsey County District Court judge, believes that judges should be able to use their own discretion when it comes to sentencing, but, she's quick to add, they should also be held to some standard when it comes to ensuring that domestic violence is taken seriously. In 1987 the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed a task force to raise awareness about gender bias within the court system; Klas served on the panel from 1989 to 1999. (She retired last July.) During that time the group focused on educating judges on domestic violence and other family-law issues. It was a lot of work, Klas says, and it didn't do much good.  

"I must say that I am discouraged by the lack of progress we made in improving judicial response to domestic violence," says Klas. "We brought in advocates and lawyers and prosecutors--everyone we could think of to speak. In the end it was my opinion that we needed to institutionalize judicial practices around the state. We need to hold judges accountable for their actions, because we trained up the kazoo and you know what? Training, shmaining--nothing has changed. Now it's time to watch what is actually going on in the courts and report on what judges are really doing and get the word out."

Klas says judicial accountability starts with keeping an eye on the courts. She would like to see an organization similar to WATCH set up shop in Ramsey County so the public has someone to call with questions on particular judges. "We also need some kind of centralized system where people can just type in a judge's name and get their sentences," says Klas.

Denise Gamache agrees, adding that there also needs to be a way for people to complain about judges without fear of retaliation. Attorneys can't usually speak for them, she explains, because they need to be able to return to a judge's courtroom.

In November a three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals considered Gaertner's appeal and reversed Campbell's decision in the Law case. The judge's decision, the appeals court said, "unreasonably depreciates the severity of the offense." The appellate court ordered Campbell to impose a stricter sentence.

The appeals-court ruling, says prosecutor Schleh, set a new legal precedent. Not only are there established maximum sentences in Minnesota, but now there is also a minimum. "We were thrilled to have gotten this result," she says. "There really haven't been any successful appeals on such huge downward departures before this. Precedent-setting law up until this point has all been about how high justices can go when imposing sentences. It's very rare for the appeals court to reverse the decision of a trial-court judge. The appeals court basically sent out a wake-up call to judges, saying, 'Hey, this is real life you're dealing with and there are restraints on being too lenient.'"


Everyone rises as Judge Campbell enters courtroom 1340 in the Ramsey County courthouse in downtown St. Paul. He's been in Ft. Lauderdale following his "beloved Gophers" over the Christmas holiday and his face looks tan against his black robe even under the harsh institutional lights of the courtroom.

It's January 4, 2001, and Jeffrey Law is back in court to receive a new sentence from Campbell. Erika Law is sitting in the front row of seats. On the other side of the courtroom, Law's relatives sit whispering about how thin he looks. "He's wasted away," one woman says, shaking her head. It's been a rough two months for Law. He had behaved himself in the workhouse and been released from jail early. He was a free man for a few days in early November before being hauled back to jail.

Campbell knows of Law's good behavior. And he seems upset as he sits, head in hand, listening to Law's attorney tell how Law now attends Bible study, and to Schleh, who stresses that children were endangered during the assault.

Finally it's Law's turn. He approaches the bench dressed in the baggy light-blue shirt and pants issued by the jail. His dark hair is smashed flat against his head and looks slept-on. He barely glances at his ex-wife. He looks up at Campbell and pleads for leniency. "I was a different man on October 25, 1999," Law says. "I was a miserable man, a selfish man doing drugs every day. I regret what I did. I wish I could change it, but I cannot. See me for the man before you today and not the man that choked my wife."

Campbell sighs. "Three judges of the court of appeals believe one year is not enough punishment," he tells Law. "They have directed me to give you a prison sentence." Law must serve 12-1/2 years, minus the 307 days he has already done. It cannot be argued, the judge says to no one in particular, that this sentence does not meet the guidelines. Law says nothing before being led away.  

When it's over, Campbell takes a walk around the block to relax. Returning to the empty courtroom for the few minutes he has before hearing a rape case, he acknowledges that the Law case has been difficult for him. "[Law] participated in every single program imaginable at the workhouse and was a model prisoner and did all of the things you require a person to do, and then he got released," Campbell says. "When the appeals decision came down several days later, of course I put him immediately back in custody. Well, obviously his hopes were dashed and that's just an added thing on top of what I had to do today. His hopes had soared and he went on the roller coaster up and now he's down and that obviously makes you feel sad to do it.

"But you know what? He strangled his wife. I didn't. I mean, you get punishment."


City Pages interns Julie Madsen, Natasha Uspensky, and Ben Ganje contributed research to this story.

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