Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

48 Scarlet Letters

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

48 Scarlet Letters

Article excerpt

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Hester Prynne had to wear a single scarlet letter to identify herself as an adulteress. A judge in Illinois went much further in the case of farmer Glenn Meyer, ordering 48 letters, each 8 inches high, on a sign on his property near Pittsfield, warning everyone that Meyer is a "violent felon." Such humiliation is unnecessary and unfair; the Illinois Supreme Court wisely ordered the sign taken down.

Meyer was convicted in 1995 in the beating of another man in an argument over auto parts. He had been convicted of aggravated battery twice before and acquitted another time; psychologists testified that he has a mental illness that has prompted him to violence when he thought he saw a threat.

Seeking to keep Meyer out of prison, so he could care for his mother, Circuit Judge Thomas L. Brownfield sentenced him to probation, plus a fine of $7,500 and restitution of $9,615. He also ordered counseling and a year of home confinement - plus a 4-by-8-foot sign at the end of the lane leading to his property, with large, clearly readable letters that proclaimed: "WARNING A VIOLENT FELON LIVES HERE. …

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