COURT OF APPEALS SLAPS WRIST OF JUDGE WHO REFUSED TO CLEAN UP ERROR

Given v. Commonwealth (Ky. App., 2013) April 12, 2013

We declare more formally that which the Court in Cardwell implied, i.e., a discrepancy between a trial court’s intended sentence and the final judgment is a clerical error where the intended sentence was explicitly expressed by the trial court and fully made known to the parties, and such is readily apparent from the record of the sentencing hearing, with no credible evidence to the contrary. Sentencing is a significant occurrence, as it is when the defendant learns the extent to which he has lost his liberty and the Commonwealth learns what punishment will be imposed. In an ideal world, the written judgment would accurately reflect the appropriate punishment determined by the judge for the crime committed, but unfortunately reality does not always conform to the ideal. Judges have a solemn duty to dispense justice fairly, in accordance with the law, and to maintain the integrity of the justice system so as to merit and hold fast the public’s faith in that system. Binding parties to an unintended and mistaken judgment that either delivers an undeserved windfall or imposes an inequitable punishment serves neither party and undermines our system of justice.

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