His conviction – described by many as “excessive” – has set his sights on the legal system of the state of Colorado, in the United States.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, a 26-year-old Cuban youth, was sentenced to 110 years in prison for a traffic accident that occurred in 2019 in which he killed four people after crashing the truck he was driving loaded with wood into a row of cars, causing a fire.
According to Lakewood Police Department investigators, Aguilera-Mederos was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident and did not have a criminal record.
The defense alleged that the truck’s brakes failed, although the prosecution accused him of not having used the emergency ramps that could have prevented the tragedy.
As a result of the accident, Miguel Ángel Lamas Arellano, 24, lost their lives; William Baily, 67; Doyle Harrison, 61, and Stanley Politano, 69, while another group of people were injured.
The penalty against Aguilera-Madero, greater than for many convicts in other parts of the United States who have committed crimes considered more serious by justice, has aroused the solidarity of millions of people and has even led the prosecution to request a review Of the same.
Last Friday, Colorado’s First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King filed a motion for the court to schedule a new hearing to reconsider the sentence.
“As Colorado law required the imposition of sentence in this case, the law also allows the Court to reconsider its sentence in an exceptional case involving unusual and extenuating circumstances,” the prosecutor wrote.
A clemency petition for the young man on the Change.org platform had received more than 4,600,000 signatures until this Wednesday, which makes it one of the three most signed applications in 2021 and the one that has grown the fastest, according to company data.
At least two demonstrations have taken place this week in front of the Colorado Congress and several truckers have announced on social media that they would not use the state highways in solidarity with Aguilera-Medero.
The case has gained notable visibility not only because of media attention and protests, but also because celebrities have spoken out about it.
On Tuesday, reality star Kim Kardashian posted a message of solidarity with Aguilera-Medero on her networks, adding their voices to that of numerous jurists and activists who have condemned the calls mandatory minimum sentences,They allowed a 110-year sentence for Aguilera-Mederos.
“Mandatory minimums eliminate judicial discretion and must be eliminated,” he wrote. “The laws of Colorado really have to be changed.”
Kardashian recalled how the judge in the case himself recognized that he would not have wanted to sentence the young man to such a long sentence, but that state laws did not allow him to reduce it at his discretion.
“What I will say is that if I had discretion, this would not be my sentence,” said Judge A. Bruce Jones.
But how do you explain this lengthy sentence, and how is it possible that a judge does not have the discretion to administer justice in some parts of the United States?
What are the mandatory minimums?
As explained by the NGO Families Against Mandatory Minimuns, these types of sentences are generally established by the US Congress or by state legislatures and indicate that a court must impose a minimum sentence on a convicted person, regardless of the circumstances. unique characteristics of the offender or crime.
The Brennan Center for Justice of the New York University School of Law points out that the objective of these laws when they were developed was to promote uniformity: no matter how strict or lenient the judges are, it will be the law and only the law that determines the sentence a person receives. condemned.
“States followed, and soon mandatory minimums became a standard response to the drug and crime epidemics. What started as a well-intentioned attempt to impose uniformity became too restrictive, creating new disparities and injustices in the process, ”he says.
These types of laws began to be used in some states since the 1950s, although their use became more frequent after 1984, when the Sentencing Reform Law was approved.
However, numerous legal and civil rights organizations have questioned its effectiveness over the years.
“Unfortunately, the adoption of mandatory minimums has not led to a fairer system. In fact, it has had the opposite effect. By tying the judges’ hands, the mandatory minimums effectively took power away from judges and gave it to prosecutors, who may threaten to charge defendants with crimes that would ‘trigger’ a mandatory minimum, ”notes the Brennan Center. .
In most states, these types of convictions are associated with drug offenses, but in others, such as Colorado, the laws are stricter and apply to other charges.
In addition, Colorado laws require that the minimum sentence for some crimes be a minimum of 10 years and provide that sentences be served consecutively rather than simultaneously.
In the Aguilera-Mederos case, the jury found the young man guilty on six counts of assault in the first degree with “extreme indifference”; 10 counts of attempted first degree assault with “extreme indifference”; two counts of vehicular assault; a reckless driving charge; and four counts of reckless driving causing death.
This meant that the mandatory minimum sentence reached 110 years and that the judge had no discretion to reduce it taking into account the possible mitigating factors of the case.
What is the current status of the case?
Following Friday’s request, the prosecution again filed another motion on Tuesday to request that the process for a new hearing be expedited.
The prosecutor asked that “now that the defendant has been sentenced, the Court again schedule a hearing as soon as possible after receiving the document.”
According to local media, a new audience could be scheduled as soon as this Friday or next Monday, although there could be a delay due to the Christmas and New Years holidays.
The prosecution further indicated that they intend to present additional information prior to the hearing.
This Wednesday, the Colorado Governor’s office confirmed to BBC Mundo that they had received a clemency request from Aguilera-Mederos’ defense and that it was being studied.
“We received the request from Rogel Aguilera-Mederos and our legal team is currently reviewing it. Once we make a decision, we will make an announcement, ”said Conor Cahill, the government’s press secretary.
Last week, the Denver Post newspaper devoted an editorial to the case and considered that the sentence was “too severe.”
“We are losing faith in the US judicial system and clemency is a way to ensure that the scales of justice remain balanced,” he said.
How was the accident?
On April 25, 2019, Aguilera-Mederos lost control of the cargo truck driving down Interstate 70 near a shopping center in West Denver.
As confirmed by investigators in the case, the truck’s brakes began to overheat on a steep descent and Aguilera-Mederos continued on his way despite seeing smoke coming from them.
When the truck’s brakes failed completely, Aguilera-Mederos did not use the emergency ramp that could have stopped the vehicle, and incidentally avoided the tragedy, but instead crashed the truck into several vehicles that were stopped on the interstate due to an accident. previous accident in the area.
According to Aguilera-Mederos’ affidavit, the young man “thought he was going to die so he closed his eyes before colliding with parked traffic.”
Prosecutors in the case argued that Aguilera-Mederos had had several opportunities to avoid the tragedy and that it was his bad decisions that had caused the incident.
After hearing the sentence, the young truck driver cried and apologized to the victims’ families.
“I am not a criminal. I am not a murderer. When I see the charges against me, we are talking about a murderer and that is not me. I’ve never thought of hurting someone in my life, “he said.
“I lost my brakes. Truckers know this is a difficult time, there is nothing you can do. You can’t do anything, ”he added.
Some of the victims’ relatives have expressed solidarity with the young man, but others have considered that the sentence was fair.
Duane Bailey, the brother of one of the deceased, told The Denver Post that the trucker: “made the deliberate and intentional decision that his life was more important than that of everyone else on the road that day.”
During the sentencing hearing, Judge A. Bruce Jones said that he “accepted and respected” what the defendant said about his lack of intention to kill the victims of the accident, but considered that the young man “made a series of terrible decisions and reckless”.
* With reporting by Rafael Rojas
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