They say that if you commit the crime, you should be prepared to do the time. In many cases, state and federal laws govern just how much time a person should spend behind bars, based on the nature of the crime. In other cases, however, judges still have quite a bit of leeway in setting the sentence. A recent case out of the West Virginia Supreme Court shows just how heavy-handed those judges can be when determining the appropriate punishment in a criminal case.
Mr. Chapman entered into a plea agreement in July 2013 in which he pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree robbery and one count of malicious wounding. The charges stemmed from an incident in which he allegedly entered a person’s home in search of money and prescription drugs. Chapman had been drinking heavily that night, according to the Court, and he allegedly struck the home owner before stealing a television and some jewelry. The trial court sentenced Chapman to 80 years in prison on the robbery charge, to be followed by another two to 10 years on the malicious wounding charge.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the state Supreme Court rejected Chapman’s claim that the 80-year sentence was disproportionate to the robbery charge. The Court noted that the statute making robbery illegal in the state didn’t include upper limits on sentences for violation of the law. Nevertheless, the Court said Chapman had the right to challenge the sentence on proportionality grounds.
The Court found no support for the argument that the 80-year sentence was disproportionate to the crime. “In determining whether a given sentence violates the proportionality principle . . ., consideration is given to the nature of the offense, the legislative purpose behind the punishment, a comparison of the punishment with what would be inflicted in other jurisdictions, and a comparison with other offenses within the same jurisdiction,” the Court explained, quoting its 1981 decision in Wanstreet v. Bordenkircher. Here, the Court said Chapman admitted knowing that the victim was home at the time of the robbery, acknowledged the “cruel, heinous” nature of his action, and confessed that he destroyed the home in a fit of rage.
The Court also said the trial judge relied heavily on impact statements from the victims. “[T]he victim impact statements reveal the extreme violence of the crime,” the Court observed. The statements also revealed that as a result of the defendant’s actions, the victim suffered multiple facial fractures, multiple brain bleeds, cervical fractures, multiple broken ribs, and a broken arm.
This case is just one example of just how serious it is to be charged with a crime. If you have been charged with a crime or accused of violating a probation agreement in West Virginia, it is vital that you seek experienced legal representation. The West Virginia criminal defense lawyers at the Wolfe Law Firm have been serving clients throughout the state for more than 25 years. Call us at 1-877-637-5756 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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