MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — It will be months before a New Hampshire man who wielded a machete in a deadly home invasion in Mont Vernon gets to make his case for a reduced sentence because he was 17 at the time.
Lawyers for convicted killer Steven Spader have until Dec. 28 to file any expert witness reports they plan to use in efforts to reduce Steven Spader’s sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mark Katic reports
Spader was convicted of hacking to death 42-year-old Kimberly Cates and maiming her 11-year-old daughter, Jaimie, in October 2009. He was a month shy of his 18th birthday at the time.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June held that mandatory life sentences for those under 18 amount to cruel and unusual punishment. The court ruled that judges should have discretion to consider whether a juvenile’s “lessened culpability and greater capacity for change” might warrant a lesser sentence.
Jonathan Cohen, one of Spader’s lawyers, acknowledged Wednesday that Spader’s sentence could remain the same, even after a new sentencing hearing. The Supreme Court ruling says only that judges should be able to consider other factors.
Cohen would not comment on Spader’s reaction when he learned he was eligible for a new sentencing hearing.
“It’s another blow” to the Cates family, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said after the lawyers met in the judge’s chambers to establish a schedule.
“Obviously it’s not good news to them, but they understand it,” Strelzin said. “They have been strong throughout this.”
Jaimie Cates survived the attack by pretending to be dead, even as Spader hacked at her foot. Her father, David Cates, was traveling on business at the time.
Spader was one of five men convicted in the home invasion. The only other one convicted of murder and sentenced to a mandatory life sentence — Christopher Gribble of Brookline — was 19 at the time of the attack. He stabbed Jaimie Cates multiple times and plunged the knife into her mother’s throat to make certain she was dead. The only time Jaimie Cates appeared in court during the course of Spader’s and Gribble’s trials was to watch Gribble be sentenced.
In sentencing Spader in November 2010, Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson said she could go on for days about the depths of his depravity. She tacked on an additional 76 years to the life sentence for his other felony convictions related to the home invasion.
“You will stay in that cage for the rest of your pointless life,” Abramson told Spader.
Strelzin said both sides will return to court Jan. 3 to schedule the resentencing hearing, once they know how elaborate a case Spader’s lawyers plan to make.
Several other high-profile convicted killers in New Hampshire may seek to have their sentences reduced, citing the same Supreme Court ruling. The public defender’s office has filed requests to be appointed counsel to represent three killers serving life sentences for crimes committed when they were under 18.
Public defender Richard Guerriero last month asked a court to appoint him to again represent Robert Tulloch, who was 17 when he and another Vermont teen stabbed to death Dartmouth professors Half and Suzanne Zantop in 2001.
Similar requests for court-appointed counsel have been filed on behalf of Robert Dingman, convicted of killing his parents in their Rochester home in 1996, and Eduardo Lopez Jr., convicted of shooting a man to death during a robbery in Nashua in 1991. Dingman and Lopez were 17 when the killings occurred.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.