A Judge Cuts a Convicted Murderer’s Sentence in Half

Interviewer: It’s 1800law1010, 1800law1010.com. Paul Harding from Martin, Harding and Mazzotti on the horn. Morning, Paul.

Paul: Hey, good morning guys.

Interviewer: Let me give you the first paragraph from the story at News 10 that over the past couple of days, we’ve been seeing. “A convicted killer’s sentence cut in half after a Capital Region judge made a very rare decision that could have implications on other violent cases involving young offenders.” This kid was 16 when he was convicted of manslaughter and he was not granted youthful offender status. So he went back to court to ask for youthful vendor status and the judge did something super rare. Right, Paul?

Paul: Well, yeah. So the youthful offender status is used sparingly but used in New York. And what it really means is a person charged with a crime with is usually between the age of 16 and 19. So 16, 17 or 18, if they are deemed to be under this statute, in essence, whatever crime they have is automatically sealed, and they’re now charged with youthful offender. So here we had a murder, right? It was on a video. People could see the murder, and I don’t think that they expected to get the youthful offender status… or they expected that the youthful offender status granted or it was going to be denied. Here, the judge did something and they used the word “Unprecedented.” I didn’t find a whole lot behind this that I can say that it’s not unprecedented where the judges said, “Well, we’re gonna kind of give him a few more years and he’s going to be out in an additional three years.”

Interviewer: Right. They cut the sentence from 25 to 12 years’ time spent. So like Paul said, he’ll be out in three years.

Man 1: I mean, I’d like to see what the kid exactly had to say to the judge, he really must have sold them on it. And when I was growing up, I thought it was like cut and dry, like in-stone. I’d go out and commit murder if I was 15, and I would be out by the time I was 18.

Paul: Yeah. No. So there is something if you’re under the age of 16. So here, we have that in New York. So, you know, at what age or is the child 13, 14, 15. But from the 16 to 19 age, yeah, you can be convicted of murder, you can do the whole sentence, or they can look at circumstances. And here they said, listen, at the time of sentencing, back then, the judge didn’t consider the youthful offender and the age of the defendant enough. Didn’t take enough of a consideration. Therefore, in essence, it looked like, “I’m gonna kinda work something out that’s probably fair. I’m not granting youthful offender, but I’m going to work something out that I think, as a judge, is fair.”

Interviewer: And I know it’s hard because I can only put myself in the family of the victim but isn’t prison to rehabilitate and doesn’t this kid come across as someone who it may have worked on and that has actually rehabilitated? And don’t we want rehabilitated people back out into societies and the whole point of prison?

Man 1: Prosecutors, by the way, are saying that he’s continued his violent ways, 12 violations, five of them violent offenses in prison.

Interviewer: Okay.

Man 1: So, you know, I don’t know what they’re referring to but when you’re in prison, I mean, you know, I’ve heard that just opening your mouth can be a violation. You know what I mean?

Paul: Sure can. So you know, there he is, he is a kid in there. And you look at it two ways. One, if it hasn’t affected him at all, he could continue in his bad ways, two, getting written up in prison is pretty basic, you know, especially at that point. It’s just a survival component to being a bit of a fighter and fighting back. But sure, they look at this and they say… the prosecutor said, “We’ve got this same kid who we watched on video plunge a knife into somebody’s chest and kill him. Now, he’s going to be out on the streets.” The judge looked at everything and said, “No, you know, this kid is on the road to rehabilitation, and more prison time isn’t going to do him any good. In my view, the fact that when he gets out, he is not going to be violent.”

Interviewer: Set your Google alerts for Jah-Lah Vanderhorst.

Man 1: That’s okay. Yeah. Yeah, that comes down the line.

Interviewer: I mean, what’s up with this judge though, Paul? I mean, is he going to be reprimanded by his other fellow judges?

Paul: No, I don’t think so. I think what he did is he looked at this and made a pretty gutsy decision, one that probably… because, again, you can’t imagine any upside for the judge to do anything other than stick to the books, right?

Interviewer: Right.

Paul: So when the judge goes outside of the rules, then he’s doing so because he really felt this was the right thing to do in this case. And I’m sure he’s got lots of precedent to back it up. I just didn’t find any.

Man 1: Sure. Yeah. We’re all armchair here. We’re all armchair judges. He’s the man in charge.

Interviewer: You know, put yourself in his mother’s shoes.

Paul: Sure.

Interviewer: Put yourself in the victim’s mother shoes. You can actually see both sides.

Paul: Yeah. Good point.

Interviewer: So thanks, Paul. We appreciate it.

Man 1: Thanks, Paul.

Paul: Talk soon, guys.

Interviewer: Yeah, there goes Paul Harding, Martin, Harding, and Mazzotti, 1800law1010, 1800law1010.com.