The Daily Press ran a brief snippet of a story online this week, highlighting how two defendants in the same case, facing many of the same charges, can walk away with vastly different outcomes.
The case involved a home invasion. The two defendants were 20-year old Samual Goodwin Sanchez and 21 –year old Robert King Via, Jr. While the details of the case weren’t published, both men were charged with forcing themselves into a home and holding four people at gunpoint before making off with cash.
Via was found guilty at trial of conspiracy, armed burglary, robbery, firearms charges, and four counts of abduction. Sanchez, on the other hand, pled guilty in a plea agreement to charges of robbery, abduction, and firearms charges.
Sanchez was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Via, on the other hand, will face sentencing in a few months. But, the jury who convicted him has recommended a sentence of 128 years plus one day for his role in the crimes.
The Daily Press points out that judges rarely deviate much from sentencing recommendations from a jury, despite the fact that these recommendations are made by people who aren’t educated in the law and don’t have access to the state sentencing guidelines, “designed to help equalize sentences around the state.”
In addition to not having access to these important guidelines, jurors aren’t given any guidance on whether or not the sentences for each charge would be served consecutively or concurrently, a matter that could dramatically change the total number of years served.
There is a very good chance that Via will face a sentence that is numerous times longer than his codefendant’s. Part of that is because the judge will likely stick close to the jury’s recommendations and because Via chose to go to trial rather than admit fault in a plea agreement.
The vast majority of criminal cases, around some 97%, are resolved by plea agreement. A plea agreement is where you, the defendant, agree to plead guilty to at least some of the charges against you in exchange for a more lenient sentence or even reduced charges. This is what happened in Sanchez’s situation and no doubt at least part of the reason he is looking at a far lighter sentence.
If you are facing criminal charges and unsure of the sentence you face or the likelihood of a beneficial plea agreement, contact us today.