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Oklahoma Judge Sentences Teen to Church for 10 Years

In the 50's and 60's sure. Lots of questionable things were given a free pass back then. In 2012, how is this possibly allowed to happen?

Nov 16, 2012 3:49pm

Oklahoma Judge Sentences Teen to Church for 10 Years


Anybody who knows Oklahoma District Court Judge Mike Norman probably yawned at the news that he’d sentenced a teen offender to attend church as part of his probation arrangement, and that the judge’s pastor was in the courtroom at the time.

Not only had he handed down such a sentence before, but he’d required one man to bring the church program back with him when he reported to court.

“The Lord works in many ways,” Norman, 69, told ABC News today. “I’ve done a little bit of this kind of thing before, but never on such a serious charge.”

Norman sentenced Tyler Alred, 17,  Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in August for killing friend and passenger John Luke Dum in a car crash.

Dum died on impact in December after Alred crashed his Chevrolet pickup truck, ejecting Dum. Alred was 16 at the time of the crash and had been drinking prior to the deadly accident.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol issued a Breathalyzer at the time, and although Alred was under the state’s legal alcohol limit, he had been drinking underage.

The judge could have sent Alred to jail but, instead, taking into account his clean criminal and school records, sentenced him to wear a drug and alcohol bracelet,  participate in counseling groups and attend a church of his choosing – weekly. He must also graduate from high school.

To avoid jail time, Norman gave Alred a maximum 10-year deferred sentence.

He’d never passed down the church-attendance requirement for someone as young as Alred,  said Norman, who has worked as a district Judge in Muskogee for 14 years.

“It’s not going to be automatic, I guarantee you,”  Norman said of the church sentence on future manslaughter charges. “There are a lot of people who say I can’t do what I did. They’re telling me I can’t legally sentence someone to church.”

Alred’s lawyer is not among the critics. “I usually represent outlaws and criminals,” defense attorney Donn Baker told the Muskogee Phoenix. “This is a kid that made a mistake. I think he’s worth saving.”

In the courtroom this week, an emotional scene between the victim’s family and Alred played out after statements from Dum’s mother, father and two sisters were read during the sentencing. Dum’s father and Alred stood up in court, turned toward each other and embraced one another.

“At that moment, it sure became a reality to me that I would sentence this boy to church” to help set him on the right path, Norman, a member of First Baptist Church in Muskogee, said. “There’s nothing I can do to make this up to the family.

“I told my preacher I thought I led more people to Jesus than he had but, then again, more of my people have amnesia. They soon forget once they get out of jail.”

After completing the rest of the requirements in his sentence, Alred will have the charge removed from his record.

“Only time will tell if we’ve saved Tyler Alred’s life,” the judge said.


If he was sentencing people to attend Wiccan sabbats or a mosque, would people still turn a blind eye to him?

Answer Question

Asked by NotPanicking at 5:42 PM on Nov. 18, 2012 in Politics & Current Events

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
Answers (17)
  • I dont see how that is even legal. Thats is forcing religion down someones throat

    Answer by LostSoul88 at 5:52 PM on Nov. 18, 2012

  • Hmm... is that even legal? And I'm not clear on the specific requirements. Could the boy attend, say, a mosque or temple weekly? Or are only the houses of Jesus going to count? Could he switch between religious denominations (and get a sampling) or is focus required?

    Honestly, I appreciate the attempt to teach rather than punish if it truly was just a horrible horrible mistake, but I question the method.

    Answer by Sebbiemama at 5:54 PM on Nov. 18, 2012

  • If he was sentencing people to attend Wiccan Sabbats or a mosque, would people still turn a blind eye...

    Hell no! But that being said, I don't think any denomination would want their child attending a church that isn't the same as where the family worships.

    Personally, I'd much rather see my young son in church versus prison. Regardless of my feelings on Religion.


    Answer by PMSMom10 at 5:56 PM on Nov. 18, 2012

  • But this isn't a mistake- a mistake is putting bleach in with the bright colors whilst doing laundry.
    This is the loss of life as a result of irresponsible behavior.

    My main concern is that this judge has set precedent in regards to manslaughter.
    What? Someone died as a result of my actions? If I go to church can I stay out of jail?

    How does church and a bracelet teach this person about the value of life, which he so negligently terminated?

    Answer by feralxat at 6:00 PM on Nov. 18, 2012

  • What. The. Actual. Fuck.

    Sooo... we're applying on a grander scale, the typical religious response to personal accountability?
    "I'm not responsible if god forgives me."

    The kid made a mistake, one he's undoubtedly learned from. There are better ways of dealing with this, than to not only blur the lines between the separation of church and state, but brazenly cross them.
    I feel for the kid, I truly do. Not because he's received an unconstitutional sentence, but because whe he's learning from it will predispose him to further irresponsible behaviour.

    Answer by ObbyDobbie at 6:06 AM on Nov. 19, 2012

  • It's a church of his choosing. I would say that includes EVERYTHING. Wiccan, Buddists, Muslim, Christian, Baptists, etc. The kid made a bad mistake that cost someone their life but the judge took everything into account and thought that instead of turning out another criminal after spending 10 years in jail he'd try to save him. I know that a kid in our church rear ended someone and accidently killed the man. (Stuff flew out of the mans back seat hitting the man in the head killing him!) The family could have had him charged & sent to prisson but instead talked to the police and the court and he was sentenced to probation. Today this young man is married, working a fulltime job, and works with the local homeless shelter. If he had been sent to jail where would he have been? Every belief has a basic set of guidelines that promote goodness in people. I believe that this is what the judge was trying to impart.

    Answer by baconbits at 10:54 AM on Nov. 19, 2012

  • Wow! Just wow!

    Answer by booklover545 at 11:11 AM on Nov. 19, 2012

  • Good for him!

    Answer by Anonymous at 11:47 AM on Nov. 19, 2012

  • It's a church of his choosing. I would say that includes EVERYTHING. Wiccan, Buddists, Muslim, Christian, Baptists, etc.

    So if he's an atheist or practices a religion that doesn't have a house of worship he should be forced to go to one he doesn't believe in? He could've been given this same free pass without including church. Make him volunteer at a soup kitchen for 10 years, or an animal shelter, or do litter pick up. There's no legal or moral reason to force someone to participate in a religion they don't believe in.

    Besides, it sure doesn't sound like it could be "any church". The judge brags about sending more people to church than his pastor. I doubt he'll let them go to a synagogue instead and jeopardize his score.

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 2:04 PM on Nov. 19, 2012

  • I don't even see how this bullshit is legal.

    Answer by Nos4 at 2:10 PM on Nov. 19, 2012

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