A Chicago man who was 15 when he pulled the trigger, had his sentence partially commuted in a gang-related double murder; the resentencing took place because the United States Supreme Court has declared that mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional.
Eric Anderson was a member of the notorious Almighty Popes when he shot into a van carrying members of a rival gang and several other people. Two 13-year-old girls, Helena Martin and Carrie Hovel, were killed. At the time, Illinois law called for a mandatory life sentence in such cases. After hearing scientific testimony about brain development, and also after hearing from both victims and family members, Judge Arthur Hill reduced Mr. Anderson’s sentence to 60 years. Family members detailed what they said was Mr. Anderson’s troubled upbringing, which included extended periods of counseling. Judge Hill said he also considered Mr. Anderson’s above-average prison record. The young man will be eligible for parole when he is 46.
Carrie Hovel’s father expressed some disappointment with the new sentence, but took solace in the fact that it was the maximum Mr. Anderson could have received.
Sentencing in Criminal Cases
In some criminal cases, the defendant has few options in terms of “beating” the charges, so to obtain a positive result, the attorney focuses on a reduced sentence. Age and criminal history are the most common mitigating factors for sentencing purposes.
In terms of age, lawyers and bureaucrats have rather arbitrarily drawn the line between child and adult at 16, 18, or whatever. New research shows that the brain is not fully mature until much, much later, as most people are in their 30s or 40s before their brains are fully developed. So, age is at least a partial defense even if the offender is legally an adult. Moreover, the risk analysis part of the brain is one of the last to develop, which is why children run into the street after errant balls and cross without looking both ways. They are biologically incapable of understanding the likely consequences of these actions. Additionally, some people are unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality. For example, many people view reenactments on television documentaries and believe that they are real.
Criminal history is particularly important when considering court supervision and other deferred prosecution programs because a certain kind of criminal background may automatically disqualify the defendant, depending on program requirements. Judges are usually somewhat more lenient when considering criminal history, as they often account for the surrounding circumstances, such as the facts of the offense, the offender’s age at the time, and the age of the conviction.
Strategy at Technical Rehearings
Probation revocation, resentencing, and other such hearings require a special touch. The purpose of such hearings is not to rehash the facts of the case, and defense attorneys who try to so do are often ignored by the judge or shot down by prosecutors’ objections. Similarly, while grieving family members are often an important component of an overall strategy, a seasoned trial judge will not be moved by a mother’s plea “not to put my baby in jail,” so such testimony cannot be the strategic lynchpin.
At such technical hearings, it is best to focus on these aspects of the offense, and use these technicalities to cast the defendant in a favorable light.
The best defense depends on the applicable law as well as all the facts and circumstances. For a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson.
(image courtesy of Rachel Paprocki)