1 MARCH 1930, Page 15


The Baumes Laws, whereby four successive convictions for felony in New. York State automatically condenm the offender to imprisonment for life, are once more the subject of controversy. This arose anew after a life sentence im- posed upon a young woman, whose fourth conviction it was, found guilty of shoplifting. Punishment so manifestly out of proportion to the crime has naturally evoked a public protest, in which, oddly enough, both the prosecuting Attorney and the Judge who imposed the sentence joined vehemently. The Judge pointed out that the law as it stands left him no discretion, and, while he considered the sentence an injustice, lie was compelled to impose it. An appeal has been made to Governor Roosevelt to exercise his executive clemency and modify the sentence, which he is disposed to do. The Baumes Laws, however, were deliberately made inflexible by the Legislature, and for a Governor to exercise clemency in respect of offenders convicted under them would appear to be a direct violation of the general principle. It would appear to be for the Legislature to say whether the principle is or is not to stand, and, if not, to modify the laws accordingly. While there seems to be little likelihood that the laws will be repealed altogether, there does seem to be a strong proba- bility that the Legislature will be forced to modify them so that the life sentence will apply in future only to a succession of major crimes.