This case is different than most that I talk about here. First, it does not involve a murder, although admittedly, it easily could have. Secondly, for me this case is less about the perpetrator or even the victim but about something in our legal system. I have often noted that I am a proponent of the law. I have completed some courses in the quest for a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies but I have also taught myself quite a bit about the law over time whether it deals with criminal law or civil law and I try to keep up on things as much as possible. However, this case involved something I had never heard of before.... shock probation.
Let me first explain just what shock probation is. This form of punishment allows a judge to release a defendant from prison and to serve the rest of their time on strict probation. It is sometimes recommended for defendants who have had no prior legal issues and believes that a short stint in jail can teach a lesson. The idea is that their time in jail has scared them to the point that they will never want to go back and that society at large is not in danger. To be fair I cannot say how many states allow this type of sentence but it is apparently fully left up to the judge of the case to decide if this is an appropriate sentence.
On June 13, 2011 twelve year old Jacob Eberle and some of his friends were playing the age old game “Ding Dong Ditch” near their home in Louisville Kentucky. We all know the game.... it is where you go to a home, ring the doorbell and run. There is some debate on whether the group of boys had gone to the home of Michael Bishop. Initial reports stated that they did but later reports issued by Jacob's family state that the boys were neither at Bishop's door or in his yard. Regardless of that fact it appears that Bishop came outside his door brandishing a shotgun and shot at the kids on his lawn. Now, I openly admit that I am not an expert on guns or ammunition and my husband will tell you I am often asking him questions pertaining to things like this. This case was one of them. The reports said that Jacob had been hit with “over 100 pellets in the back.” I was confused until my husband explained that it was either bird or buckshot. If you are as clueless as I am about ammunition then let me explain. Birdshot are pellets about the size of a BB and buckshot is only slightly bigger. While they still can do obvious damage they are not as deadly as a normal size bullet obviously.
It is unclear exactly what happened just after the shooting. Jacob's family would claim that after shooting Jacob Michael Bishop had “destroyed evidence,” taken a shower and later lied to the police. They also claim that Bishop, or at least through his attorney, never showed remorse for his action and used excuses for his actions. I did see where it was claimed that there had been home burglaries in the area as of late and he felt he was defending himself but whether that is true or not is uncertain.
While Jacob was taken to the hospital and treated, Bishop was taken to jail. It was said that Bishops initial bail was set at $50,000 but it was later lowered to $10,000. A month after the shooting Bishop would take what is called an Alford Plea. This means that while he did not accept responsibility or admit his guilt he acknowledged that the prosecutor had enough evidence to convict him, thus saving a trial. He was given a sentence of ten years in jail.
However, after about 100 days in jail, so just over three months, Bishop would ask for a shock probation hearing. This would mean that he would be allowed out of jail put on probation. The restrictions included never owning a gun, no drinking of alcohol and in the first thirty days he would be on a 10 pm curfew. Jacob's family fought against this being allowed. While it appears that physically the shooting had left him with multiple scars the damage had become more psychological for Jacob as he was continually suffering from panic attacks due to the action that had taken place. The judge in the case decided that he would allow shock probation on one condition, that instead of the ten year sentence he was given initially, Bishop had to agree to the maximum fifteen year sentence he could have received. Of course Bishop agreed and the judge granted the shock probation despite opposition.
One would think things would have ended there. While I do not completely understand the “reward” system given to inmates or those on probation it appears that Bishop's probation would have ended in 2017. However, in 2015 his lawyers filed for a pardon from out-going Governor Beashear. In December of 2015 Beashear granted the pardon, once against the requests of Jacob's family. The pardon completely wiped Bishop's record clean. Now, I am uncertain just what the charge was initially, but in my opinion, unless it was severe, like attempted murder I feel as if the charge should have stood. It was more likely something along the lines of criminal recklessness. By wiping his record clean this means that if he were involved in another crime at any point.... ever, only the public may remember this incident. It means that it could never be used against him, and as if it never happened. This is the part I do not necessarily agree with. This was not a case in which it was proven someone else had committed the crime and a record deserved to be completely wiped. This was a case in which a man picked up a gun and shot into the area in which not just people, but children, were gathered. That alone in my opinion should be considered. I found no evidence that drugs are alcohol were alleged to be involved, nor did I find anything that addressed any therapy for any anger or compulsive issues he may have had. I agree that the odds are unlikely that Bishop will re-offend but that does not mean that he should not be reminded of the time he made a horrible decision.
As far as the shock probation, I think the idea behind it is good as long as it is used as it is designed to do. I do not believe that Bishop honestly meant to necessarily hurt anyone purposely or maybe he did, believing his home was being invaded, I do not know. But, in my opinion it does not erase the fact that he acted recklessly. Despite the resistance I believe that the shock probation was appropriate although I admit I would have like to have seen him serving that probation longer than the six years or so he would have been required. I think the bigger injustice was the pardon he received, but maybe that is just me.