Criminal Justice

Judge who sentenced teen in crash deaths presides at his wedding 24 years later

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A Milwaukee judge who sentenced a teen to 47 years in prison for four car crash deaths presided at the man’s wedding when he was released on parole 24 years later.

The wedding took place Wednesday in the courtroom of Judge David Hansher, report the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and WTMJ-TV.

Hansher says he was angry when he gave Ramiah Whiteside the maximum sentence in 1995. Whiteside was fleeing from police in a stolen car when he crashed into a bus stop, killing four people ranging in age from 15 to 36.

In Hansher’s opinion, Whiteside was “a 19-year-old punk,” Hansher told the Journal Sentinel.

But Hansher began communicating with Whiteside after a reporter told the judge he was learning that Whiteside was making progress in rehabilitation. After getting to know Whiteside, Hansher began writing letters supporting parole. The judge also offered to appear at Whiteside’s parole hearing, but he was turned down because he hadn’t been invited.

Whiteside supported the judge when his efforts did not appear to help. “Over the years I’ve had to give him pep talks,” Whiteside told the Journal Sentinel. “He gets discouraged, like, ‘Why don’t they let you go? You have my support and everybody knows it.’ I let him know we’re getting closer and this is how the system is right now. Don’t give up.”

Whiteside says he hasn’t forgotten his crime and the four people who died. “From where I come from, not just demographically, but the depths and despair and hopelessness and trauma, I wasn’t supposed to get a second chance,” Whiteside told WTMJ. The accident victims also deserved a second chance, he said.

Whiteside has a job at Pace Industries, a manufacturing company where he began working during work release. He tutored and mentored others while in prison, using his story as a cautionary tale. He met his fiancee while he was in prison.

Whiteside says he believes having the judge officiate at his wedding is an indication he has come full circle. “I went from being the scourge of the earth in front of the bench to now when I’m embraced and accepted by the bench and by him,” Whiteside told the Journal Sentinel.

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