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Yoga sentence judge: 'Each case is different'

Judge Larry Standley
Judge Larry Standley

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HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- Judge Larry Standley is known for his creative sentences. In a recent case, Standley ordered a man convicted of slapping his wife to take a yoga class as part of his one-year probation. CNN's Fredericka Whitfield spoke with him about the unusual sentence.

WHITFIELD: Some might say slapping your wife is a serious charge, maybe even borderline abuse. I know this case is very unusual. But it's domestic abuse, and here you hand him a sentence of yoga.

STANDLEY: First of all let me explain that there was a plea agreement between the prosecution and the defense attorney. And I basically signed off on the plea agreement. I did, however, tack on the yoga condition at the end of it. I'm usually pretty harsh on these kinds of cases. And the most that I can give is a year. But in this case the facts were unique.

WHITFIELD: Well, explain some of the facts. We are talking about 53-year-old James Lee Cross, and explain why he slapped his wife Wendy, how he justifies it and give us some of the circumstances of this case.

STANDLEY: The facts as they were presented to me were that on New Year's Eve, during the day, his wife had a substance abuse problem; they had an argument in a parking lot. And he had control issues. And he slapped her. She wanted him to be on probation, and she agreed to the probation. Why did I impose yoga? I imposed it because people that I know that are really into it, it appears to help them.

WHITFIELD: But you are not into yoga yourself, right?

STANDLEY: No, I'm not in yoga because I have a bad back. But I think the public is getting misled in this case, it has taken a life of its own. Here in Texas last week, three people got the death penalty, and I'm up here talking about yoga.

Let me explain something. He received 10 years -- 10 -- 12 months' probation. As well as 80 hours of community service as well as anger management counseling as well as random urinalysis. And what I did was tack on an additional condition that he attends a yoga class once a week for the entire year.

WHITFIELD: Have you done this before; have you tried this with others?

STANDLEY: Never did it before.

WHITFIELD: And what compelled you to do it this time?

STANDLEY: I'll tell you what compelled me to do it, simply put, anger is a result of a feeling of a loss of control. And more and more I start seeing people that feel like they can control others around them. And the people that are really into yoga, just being in their presence, it is calming. And if it takes effect, I think it will help this individual. If not, then he will get revoked and do a year.

WHITFIELD: How will you be watching his case, will you be studying this closely to see if this is a sentence that would be applicable to other offenders?

STANDLEY: Oh, I think so. I think it is going to be a rare occurrence, but I think when you got a situation where the complainant has a documented substance abuse problem and the defendant himself has control issues, it is hopeful that maybe this as well as all the other conditions will help him realize his control ends with himself. And he has no control over anybody else.

That is really where all anger comes from, control. I am not light on punishment in the least. And it's kind of interesting how this case sounds like I just sentenced him to yoga. In past cases where it's been a trial and not a plea agreement, I have actually sentenced individuals to the full year. Which is all I can give, I can't give prison. I'm in the mid-level court right below felony.

WHITFIELD: And for the record, his wife, Wendy, says she actually thinks this is good for him, and that you are really trying to get to the root of the psychology of his actions.

STANDLEY: Right. I think in your past, every judge likes to feel they are tough on crime. I'll be tough on crime in the appropriate cases.

WHITFIELD: Do you worry you are not sending a strong message for those slapping their spouses?

STANDLEY: No, just talk to the individuals that are sitting in the Harris County jail right now that got a year, the maximum sentence, from me when they tried the case. I'm not trying to sit here and beat myself on the chest. But each case is different. You got cases where the complainant wants the defendant to be on probation.

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