I posted in this thread already but then went and read more about the case, and thought I'd share some anecdotal evidence.
As part of my job I sometimes have to sit in court rooms for specific cases, and I end up hearing a lot of other cases while I'm there. Two have stuck in my mind.
The first was the case of a lady who had been stopped by the police for using her mobile phone while driving. Her defence was that she'd been at home and a relative had called to tell her that her dad had been rushed to hospital. She jumped in the car, set off, and phoned her sister. That was when the police saw her. The prosecution didn't challenge her version of events. To me it seemed like an obvious time for a judge to use his discretion, but no, because her defence involved an admission that she did use the phone while driving, so she was found guilty and fined about Â£750 if I remember correctly.
Another case was a police officer accused of causing injury by dangerous driving. He'd driven through a red light while responding to an emergency call and collided with another car. I'm going to paraphrase as best I can how the judge handed down his verdict: "It is part of a police driver's job that they will sometimes have to exceed the speed limit or go through a red light when responding to an emergency call, and it is vital that due care and attention is paid to ensure that it is safe to do so. You did not exercise due care or attention when going through the red light and that lack of care caused the collision. However, you were responding to an emergency call, and therefore the court hands down an absolute discharge." Read that again if it's not immediately obvious what was wrong with the judge's logic :-)
Here's my point. When I read about the Ross Ulbricbht court, what comes across to me is that the judge is saying "blah blah yadda yadda legal stuff and now here is MY OPINION" which will vary from judge to judge. But surely justice must be consistent? You shouldn't have one judge convicting a person for making an urgent phone call, but a different judge effectively exonerating a policeman for not driving with the care required by his job. And you shouldn't have a judge handing down an entire life sentence when another judge would most likely have given a sentence of 10-20 years.
Opinions shouldn't come in to justice. If they do, it's not justice, it's one person's opinion of what justice should be.