Thursday, February 23, 2006


In less than an hour, the Judge will sentence Cody Posey for killing Posey’s father, stepmother and stepsister. He was convicted of first degree murder in the killing of the sister, a teenager.

The Judge held a sentencing hearing this week, and yesterday announced that this morning, at nine o’clock, he would impose sentence. The Judge’s discretion is limited by New Mexico law. The Judge must decide whether to sentence Posey as a child (the crime was committed when Posey was 14), or as an adult. The jury in New Mexico does not impose sentence, and is not supposed to even know what the possible sentences are.

If the Judge decides to sentence Posey as a child, the maximum sentence would be incarceration in a juvenile facility until Posey is age twenty-one, that is, five more years. If the Judge decides to sentence Posey as an adult, the Judge must impose a sentence which would mean at least thirty years without parole.

Mandatory sentences, whether mandatory in the sense of a limit on the amount of time, or mandatory as to the amount of time, or mandatory as to the minimum, are all arbitrary. Not necessarily unjust, but arbitrary. It is possible that the sentence set by the legislature will be the right sentence in some cases. However, there is no justification for a law that tells a Judge that he must sentence to a juvenile facility for five years, or to an adult facility for at least thirty years, with no in-between.

Our whole sentencing system should be reexamined. The power we give our District Judges (judges of courts of general jurisdiction) is awesome, too much. Yet we do greater injustice when we try to set the penalties by legislated mandatory sentences.

No comments: