I’ve been sitting through a trial in Hennepin County Judge Lyonel Norris’ courtroom this week. On several occasions, Norris has had to take time to perform sentencings and other short hearings for other cases during breaks in the trial.
This morning, Norris passed sentence on Cody Lennell Taylor, 21, after he pleaded guilty to theft. Taylor’s lawyer, Julius Nolen, told Norris that Taylor’s ex-girlfriend had just given birth to twins earlier in the morning. However, one of the babies didn’t survive.
Nolen said Taylor was hoping Norris would structure the sentence to allow Taylor to be released from custody with credit for time already served in jail. Nolen said Taylor wanted to be present in the child’s life.
Norris, one of two African-American male judges who handle adult criminal cases downtown, granted the release request — but not before he delivered a paternal lecture to the young black man standing in front of him.
When Taylor, wearing a bright orange jail jumpsuit, told Norris, “This is my last time in your courtroom,” Norris responded from the bench, “I would love that to be true.”
He told Taylor that based on his “impressive” record of thefts so far in his young life, the man was likely headed for a long career in prison.
Norris also told Taylor the way to be present in a child’s life is to stay out of prison, and he told him to get a job so he can pay for things he wants instead of taking them from others.
Too many guys say they’re going to change their lives and wind up back in front of him, said Norris. “Prove me wrong.”