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The Forgotten Years

Judge Hugh Wesley Goodwin

Posted on | March 15, 2010 | 180 Comments

Goodwin was appointed to the Fresno Municipal Court on January 29, 1976.  Prior to his appointment, Goodwin had been an Assistant Public Defender in Fresno County for nine years.  Previously, he had been a member of the Fresno City Council and the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Judges have an awesome responsibility.   Unfortunately, some allow the power to swell their egos and affect their judgment.  Few, however, assume that they have been appointed by God as His infallible instrument: a view apparently sincerely held by Judge Hugh Wesley Goodwin.

When he was sworn in to his office as a judge, in a celebration in the Fresno Municipal Auditorium with over 300 invited guests, mostly from his church, with signing by the choir of his church.  Goodwin remarked that the ceremony was to celebrate that “…the appointment was made by God, and not by the Governor.”

Goodwin was a sincerely religious man.

In a letter published in the Fresno Bee on December 7, 1978, Judge Goodwin wrote, “To say that they (public officials) don’t claim infallibility for the decisions they make may sound humble before men but it doesn’t sound that way to God.  God promises just that – infallibility –  for every decision He makes through you…..”

In the less than three years he served as a judge, there were over 200 cases in which he gave suspended sentences and probation instead of fines and jail if those convicted agreed to attend church.  Many were traffic cases but some were violent law-breakers who were released without punishment.

In one particular case, a seventeen year old young man plead guilty to the forcible statutory rape of a fourteen year old girl in 1976.  The defendant already had a seven year record of juvenile delinquency.  But instead of sending the violent criminal to a California Youth Authority prison, Judge Goodwin decided to give him probation – provided he go to church and mind his mother.

As could be expected, the defendant, Samuel Allen Alford, failed to attend church.  His probation officer discovered that several months later and had Alford arrested for violating his probation and another judge sentenced him to a year at the California Youth Authority prison in Stockton.

Alford’s state provided lawyer, however, learned of the church attendance condition of probation and filed a Write of Habeas Corpus.  The lawyer argued that church attendance as a condition of probation was a violation of religious freedom.  In Fresno, Superior Court Judge Hollis G. Best ruled that the condition for probation was a violation of religious freedom.  Judge Best ruled that Alford’s lawyer’s arguments were legally right, and reluctantly released Alfrod.

A year later, on September 30, 1977, Samuel Alford attacked another young girl – raped her and cut her with a broken bottle.

Comments

180 Responses to “Judge Hugh Wesley Goodwin”

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