TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — An appeals court judge criticized Florida's mandatory minimum gun laws Tuesday while regretfully upholding the 20-year-sentence of a man who fired a gun at the ground.
A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed that Eric Patrick Wright's sentence cannot be reduced, but Judge James Wolf took the extra step of writing an opinion that calls the case an injustice.
"This case ... is a classic example of how inflexible mandatory minimum sentences may result in injustices within the legal system that should not be tolerated," Wolf wrote.
Court documents show that Wright's ex-girlfriend and mother of his child barged into his fiancee's Jacksonville home in 2013 to confront him. He asked her to leave, she refused and a struggle ensued. Wright drew a gun and fired it to scare her off.
"It is undisputed that the gun was not fired directly at the victim and was fired in an attempt to get the victim to leave," Wolf wrote.
Wright was convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill. Because a gun was fired, he fell under Florida's 10-20-Life law for gun crimes. He was 24 at the time, with no prior criminal record, and had held the same job for four years. The trial judge said she didn't want to sentence Wright to 20 years, but had to under law.
Wolf also noted that the Legislature has twice changed the 10-20-Life law since the incident. The first change in 2014 would have given a judge leeway to issue a shorter sentence. Then last year the Legislature removed aggravated assault from the list of offenses under which the mandatory minimum sentencing law applies.
But neither change was retroactive. Wolf said it was "bad timing" for Wright and suggested he seek clemency before the governor and Cabinet.
This story has corrected the name to Wright in the fourth paragraph.