Sentence Must Match the Law, Judges Say

The justice system, here in Alabama and elsewhere in the world, is not always fair. We definitely have it much much better here than in places like Syria and Iran, but there are still injustices. In a recent case out of Madison County, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals corrected an injustice that could have seen a man serve much more time in prison than the law said he should.

R.V.D. was convicted of two counts of first-degree sodomy and two counts of sexual abuse of a child. He waived his right to a jury trial and the judge conducted a bench trial. As part of his defense, R.V.D. brought forward a forensic psychologist who testified that R.V.D. was “unable to understand the nature and quality of his actions and wrongfulness of his acts” when he abused the child. He used that as a basis for many of his arguments on appeal.

R.V.D. first argued that he did not know what he was doing when he waived his right to a jury trial. However, he went before the judge and told him that he agreed to waive it prior to the beginning of trial. Further, he did not raise the issue at the trial, and that by itself was enough to keep the court from considering it on appeal. His second argument was similar, that he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his right to testify in his defense. However, he did not raise that argument at trial either, so he could not make it on appeal.

R.V.D. had two arguments, however, that had merit. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole on the sodomy charges. There is an Alabama law that states that when the defendant was over 21 and the victim was 6 or younger when the abuse occurred, they must be sentenced to life without parole. However, that law was not in effect when the acts occurred. According to the court, whatever the law was at the time the offense was committed determines the sentence. Thus, the court would have to reconsider R.V.D.’s sentence.

R.V.D. also argued that the trial court did not give him a chance to speak on his own behalf at his sentencing hearing. Rule 26.9(b) of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure require that the convicted be allowed to argue his sentence before the judge before it is imposed. Since the record clearly showed that the trial judge gave R.V.D. no such opportunity, that too was a reason that the judgment should be reversed and sent back for re-sentencing.

As you can see, criminal cases can be very tricky in some ways. If everything is not done properly, there can be issues later that can either help you or hurt you. That said, it is good in this case that the law was followed properly in the end.

If you or a loved one are involved in a criminal case in Alabama or Federal court, you should have a passionate criminal defense advocate on your side. Attorney Joseph A. Ingram of INGRAM LAW LLC has the experience and track record to help you with your case. Call 205-236-3997  to schedule a free consultation. Get Relief – Get Results.

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