The highly publicized case involving the stabbing death of a Coral Gables student has finally reached its conclusion with the exception of any appellate matters that they may be heard by the 3rd District Court of Appeal. Andy Rodriguez appeared at his sentencing hearing with his Miami criminal attorney. The circuit court judge presiding over the case ordered the defendant to spend the next forty years in prison. If that was not bad enough, the judge tacked on 10 years of reporting probation once the defendant concludes his prison sentence. The courtroom was packed with reporters and family members from both the victim's and the defendant's family members. While the sentence levied by the judge appears harsh at first blush, it could have been a lot worse.
The defendant was charged by information with second degree murder and convicted by a jury of the same offense. Because the defendant was not charged with or convicted of capital first degree murder, the decision on the sentencing was left up to the judge with no input from the jury. A second degree murder case is non-capital and therefore only a 6 person jury will decide whether a defendant is guilty or not-guilty. First degree murder cases which are capital offenses, which entitles a defendant to have a jury consisting of 12 jurors. The sentencing process varies a little. In cases where Defendants are convicted in capital first degree murder cases where the death penalty is being sought by the prosecution, the jury will vote on whether or not to impose the death penalty. The judge of course has the ultimate decision when the sentence is actually imposed. In all other cases, the six or twelve person will have no say in the sentence whatsoever.
In the case involving Rodriguez, the defendant decided to make a statement before the judge handed down the sentence. In all cases, a defendant is permitted to make a statement after he or she has been found guilty. Well thought out and planned statements can cause a judge to hand down a more lenient sentence than you would normally expect. In this case, the statement given to the judge at the sentencing hearing was quoted as being "tepid" and not overly heartfelt. The defendant in his statement denied the crime. Denying the crime after a criminal conviction shows a lack of acceptance of responsibility and lack of remorse which will have deleterious affect on the judge. That is why it is important for a criminal lawyer to prepare his or her client for the hearing. Another way to persuade a judge to hand down a lighter sentence is for defendant's to have his or her friends and family speak on their behalf. A good support structure goes a long way with a judge, depending on the crimes charged and convicted of, of course.
The judge in this case also sentenced the defendant to 10 yeas of probation after he completes his prison sentence. Whether the matter of probation was appropriate or not has been discussed around town. Probation sentences are usually ordered for first time offenders who did not qualify for the pre-trial intervention program, most likely because of the charge. After sentencing someone to 40 years of prison, a follow-up probation sentence hardly makes sense. Just because the judge sentenced the defendant does not mean he will serve the entire prison sentence. He will about serve 85% of that time provided there are no significant infraction during the prison stay. Cases where a judge sentences someone to life or cases involving minimum mandatory sentences do not allow for the 85% (gain time rule).
Forty-Tear Prison Term for Coral Gables High Killer, Miami Herald.com, November 29, 2011.