I have to admit: I was almost feeling bad for Shena Hardin, the Cleveland woman who drove her SUV on a sidewalk
to get by a stopped school bus.
Not because she didn't deserve to be punished for her outrageously reckless driving — she certainly did. But it seemed to me that the highly publicized component of her sentence — standing at the scene of the crime with a sign that proclaims "ONLY AN IDIOT WOULD DRIVE ON THE SIDEWALK TO AVOID A SCHOOL BUS” — was a case of a judge getting carried away.
Ordering a person to make a public mockery of herself struck me as a punishment that is certainly unusual, if not cruel. It seemed that the judge's idea was a bit too close in spirit to medieval stocks.
Then I read about and saw footage of Hardin carrying out her sign duty, and any bit of sympathy that I might have had for her quickly vanished. She ignored prompts to apologize for her actions and passed the time — an hour each on Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning — by smoking and texting. It appeared that the sentence was just a minor inconvenience for her.
So then the question is: Has Shena Hardin learned her lesson? She was also fined $250 and had her license suspended for 30 days. My guess would be that those conventional punishments are more effective deterrents against future sidewalk driving to avoid school buses.
Here's a video of Hardin with her sign from The Plain Dealer.
And it turns out that the "idiot" sign duty was just one example of judges getting oddly creative with their sentencing. Check out this Associated Press story on other bizarre punishments, from a 13-year-old's ponytail being cutting off in court to a man literally sleeping in a doghouse.
— Thomas McMahon, executive editor
| posted on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 10:19 AM