I ran into a story that I believe to be one of the most egregious injustices in recent memory. Over at The Root, they’re reporting the story of Rene Lima-Marin, who up until last January was a free man after serving a 10-year prison sentence for two armed robberies at the age of 19, some 15 years ago. Since becoming a free man, Lima-Martin successfully managed to turn his life around after making a pledge to never return to prison. He got married, had two children, and even bought a home. Not bad for a young man who with an extensive juvenile criminal history. From all appearances, Lima-Martin had beaten the tough odds given current rates of recidivism.
Unfortunately, thanks to a clerical error, Lima-Martin now sits in prison a mere 5 months into finishing what was supposed to be a 98 year prison sentence. Now mind you, Lima-Martin was released after serving 10 years of what was explained to him and his attorney as a 16-year-sentence with good behavior. However, as Fox 31 Denver reports, clearly someone dropped the ball here.
He says his appeals lawyer told him 13 years earlier that his sentence was just 16 years.
“She was like, in this appeals process, the best thing that could have possibly happened to you was that everything would be ran concurrent and you would have 16 years. And that’s what you have right now. He says she told him, in her advice, to withdraw his appeal for a reduced sentence.
But her information was wrong—as was the court file sent to the Department of Corrections stating his sentences should run all at once, instead of back-to-back.
“I would have never had a wife. I would have never had children. I would have never bought a house. I would have never done any of those things. But I did those because you let me out. And now they are being punished for something they had absolutely nothing to do with,” he says about his family.
It’s a punishment he says is excessive.
Excessive? To me, that’s the understatement of the year. In my mind I’d call a 98-year-sentence for two separate armed robberies where no one was hurt pretty fucked up. Why? Because there are people who have committed worse crimes who are sentenced to less prison time. Lima-Martin makes this point in his interview where he says, “People have raped, molested kids, taken lives and 15, 20, 25 years. And I made a mistake and tried to steal some money and I am given my entire life in prison? It just doesn’t make sense.” You’re exactly right, Mr. Lima-Martin; none of it makes sense.
What’s really hard for me to understand here, is that Lima-Martin’s sentence didn’t fall under mandatory minimum guidelines — at least, it doesn’t seem to be that way. Perhaps if that were the case, as bad as it is, perhaps this story may have been easier to stomach. According to a 2014 report from National Research Council the likelihood that someone arrested would be sent to prison increased substantially between 1980 and 2010. Additionally, as of 2004, just 5 percent of all felony convictions came from a jury. The rest come from defendants who would rather plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence and not risk a heavier sentence with a jury trial. Here’s the thing: Lima-Martin was not convicted by a jury of his peers at a trial.
Which in this case calls into question the motives of the people who aggressively prosecuted Lima-Martin under the now defunct COP (Chronic Offender Program). A program which comprises of a board of police, citizens and district attorneys who approved cases where there were multiple acts of criminal behavior or extensive criminal history. From the looks of it, Lima-Martin would have been better off with a trial by jury or even a mandatory minimum sentence as a rapist or a murderer had the COP program not been in place. But I guess when certain people want to sell the community on being tough on crime, this is what you get.
His eight convictions led to a 98-year sentence. The judge ordered each sentence to run consecutive to each other.
Three counts of armed robbery got him 10 years each for a total of 30 years. It’s a crime that normally carries a term of just four to 16 years.
The convictions also included three counts of kidnapping, each carrying 16 years.
Rich Orman, Senior Deputy DA with the 18th Judicial District says Lima-Marin was charged with kidnapping because he moved three people from the front of the store to the back.
He also got 10 years each for two counts of burglary.
The Colorado State Public Defender says had Lima-Marin’s case been prosecuted today, he’d likely get a more reasonable offer of between 20 to 30 years.
Lima-Martin says “I did something wrong. I acknowledge the fact I did something wrong. I take responsibility for the fact I did something wrong. But I also believe I completed the punishment, the just punishment for the crime.” Now I’m sure that some of you may not agree that Lima-Martin has repaid society for his crime. And I’m sure that to some of you, a 98-year-sentence is just. Keep in mind that as it now stands, Lima-Martin will not be eligible for parole until 2054 — that’s 40 years from now when he’s 75. Now you tell me, given that he has already proven that he can be a good citizen, is it just that he is made to spend the next 40 years in prison — after having already served 10 years — for a crime he committed at 19 and more so for juvenile convictions.
Seriously, I can’t wait to hear your answer.
In the mean time, Rene Lima-Martin’s wife has started a petition asking that he is released. If you’re like me and you believe that was he has to endure is “cruel and usual punishment” — a clear violation of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution. Please, do the right thing by clicking and signing the petition below, will you? If so, let me know that you did in the comments.