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Was it legal for them to give me the death penalty?

Houston, TX |

At 17 yrs. old, in 1996, I signed for a capital life sentence in order to avoid the death penalty. Being threatened and coerced by the death penalty, they also made me sign for 3 additional sentences that were to run concurrently, 2 additional life sentences and 20 all in the same procedure. My first question is this: Can the courts give me a life sentence for aggravated robbery when it carries 5-99? 2nd question: was it legal for them to give me the death penalty in 1996 if I was under 18? The Federal Death Penalty Act that was enacted in 1994 said you had to be 18. Does Fed. law not supersede state law? I used "grounds of threat of the Death Penalty, coercion, involuntary pleads. I also filed an appeal after 17 years in prison and now I am back in county. why? thanks.

Attorney Answers 2


  1. Way to much to answer on avvo.

    Federal death penaly act would only apply in federal court.

    Recently, the US Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional for people under 18 at time of the offense. However, that was not the law in 1996.

    You really need to be conferring with a criminal defense lawyer who handles post conviction relief cases.

    Answers on Avvo are for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. No attorney / client relationship is created by providing this answer. For specific advice about your situation, you should consult a competent attorney of your choosing.


  2. I need further facts to answer competently I address your questions provisionally, and suggest you seek competent, death qualified counsel in the jurisdiction where you were convicted and sentenced. Crucial information includes the charges or indictment; whether you were initially charged in juvenile or adult criminal court; if charged in juvenile court, documents and transcripts relating to the bind over decision, the names of the attorney(s) or attorneys who represented you; your plea agreement and proceedings ; and, preliminarily, waivers for any attorney whom you retain to speak with them, review and copy their files, and obtain all historical documents relating to your prior criminal history (or juvenile hx, education, treatment, juvenile history, family history (including encounters with Child or Human services,and the like.

    It is imperative that you attempt to retain competent qualified counsel in that jurisidction. while there are resources to assist in this, and I would be willing to do so, and although capital attorneys travel throughout the country, the plain fact is that criminal law, qualified local counsel is imperative.

    In sum, at the outset, there are serious issues relating to your questions that must be considered first, and the failure of anyone to skip over these issues would consitute a fundamental error.

    With respect to you first question. whether your sentence to life for an aggravated robbery carrying a potential term of 5-99 years, this involves state statutory questions, questions of how the state courts have interreted and applied the state statutes, as well as state and federal constitutional question. Without looking at the state statutes, it is my sense that the life setence for aggravated robbery is subject to challenge on a number of grounds, including that the consequence of a life sentence, such as parole eligibility and the like can be significantly different, such as, for example, in my state, if one has been convicted of murder, there is no automatic parole eligibility, but inmates are eligible for parole only upon approval of the parole board. In turn, there are constitutional Sixth Amendment questions about whether you were properly advised of these consequences, whether given the nature of the capital offense, the underlying predicate offenses actually made you death eligible such that they were bound up in that plea. There are aslo substantive due process, double jeopardy, and ex post facto considerations that relate to your life sentence for aggravated robbery. There are eighth amendment questions relating to this sentence for a juvnile, some of which have been decided in your favor, others of which are up in the air. These questions are crucial, and require details which you have not provided.

    The FPDA has no direct application to a state court capital conviction, and only bears on it as an indication that there is a social consensus that juveniles not be sentenced to death. The relationship between federal and state laws is very complex and turns on case by case determinations. As a general matter, though, federal procedural rules, for example under the AEDPA do not govern state proceedings at all.

    As to your state law grounds of coercion, involuntary plea, and the like, those claims as framed will probably not be successful, but can be reframed by a lawyer.

    You are probably in state court, because your "appeal: was treated as a post-conviction challlenge. Obtaining state or federal post-conviction relief will be quite difficult because of statutes of limitation, but there are ways around both, if you can explain the delay and you had a disability, state, then federal procedural questions

    Your chances are slim, the issues serious, collect the above information, and get them to qualified counsel immediately. Let me know what I can do to help on this.

    In 1996, it was legal for them to give you the death penalty as a juvenile

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