smac97 Posted June 7, 2011 Share Posted June 7, 2011 Nice:Utah’s high court hears appeal of first juvenile serving life without parole By melinda RogersThe Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jun 06 2011 02:03PMUpdated Jun 6, 2011 11:39PM Robert Cameron Houston was just 17 when he stabbed and raped a 22-year-old employee of a Clearfield home for troubled youth.In 2006, Houston pleaded guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the slaying of Raechale Elton. After a weeklong penalty hearing, a 2nd District Court jury voted to sentence Houston to life in prison without the possibility of parole, making him the first juvenile in Utah to receive the sentence.But Houston now claims his sentence is unconstitutional for several reasons, including that life behind bars is cruel and unusual punishment for a juvenile.And some of those "several reasons" are ... those darn Mormons!Read on:On Monday, his case went before the Utah Supreme Court, where attorney John Pace argued on Houston’s behalf that his defense counsel in 2006 — Richard Gallegos and Dee Smith — was ineffective.Pace told the high court that jurors in the case didn’t receive proper guidance when it came to sentencing. He said jurors may not have considered whether mitigating circumstances — such as Houston’s mental health — could have outweighed aggravating factors in the case and resulted in a lesser sentence.Mental health as a mitigating circumstance. I get that.Pace also argued Houston’s attorneys didn’t put enough experts on the stand to testify on human development and the notion that the boy’s mental illness and sexual impulses could be tamed with medication. He argued that other expert witnesses could have testified on Houston’s behalf that criminal behavior decreases with age — evidence for why the teen should have received life with parole, Pace said.Decreasing likelihood of recidivism as he gets older. That seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as looking for mitigating circumstances, but that's what defense attorneys are supposed to do.But here's where Mr. Pace goes off the rails, IMHO:He also criticized Houston’s counsel for not pushing to have the boy’s trial in a different venue, particularly because the boy is black and not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which could have put him at a disadvantage with a conservative Davis County jury pool.Ah! Who knew those folks in Davis County were both racist and religious bigots?After all, it's not like the jury could have been influenced by little details like these:But Assistant Utah Attorney General Chris Ballard said Houston’s punishment fit the vicious attack he launched on Elton on Feb. 15, 2006. Houston slit Elton’s throat and tried to rip out her trachea because she wouldn’t stop screaming, Ballard said. The teenager also tried to break the woman’s neck in several different ways.Nah. He's got a long prison sentence because Mormons are racist and religious bigots.Oh, one last thing. The bio of John Pace (the attorney who presented these arguments) on his firm's website states that "Mr. Pace is an active supporter of organizations and individuals who promote commonsense problem solving and tolerance."-Smac Link to comment
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