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‘Miscarriage of justice’: outcry after Colorado trucker given 110 years for fatal accident | Colorado

The case of a younger Colorado truck driver sentenced to 110 years in jail over his position in a fatal collision has prompted widespread calls for leniency and fueled criticism of the US justice system.

On Tuesday, the Colorado district lawyer whose workplace prosecuted the case requested the court docket to rethink the sentence of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, 26, following the backlash over a punishment that’s been known as unduly harsh.

Mugshot of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos.
Rogel Aguilera-Mederos. {Photograph}: AP

Aguilera-Mederos was convicted in October of vehicular murder and different prices associated to a lethal crash in April 2019, which occurred whereas he was hauling lumber within the Rocky Mountain foothills. He has stated he was descending a steep portion of the freeway when the brakes on his semi-trailer failed, resulting in a multi-vehicle pileup and 4 deaths.

The decide within the case has stated he was obligated to offer Aguilera-Mederos the prolonged sentence based mostly on minimal sentencing legal guidelines for the fees, prompting additional criticism of the felony justice system. .

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Greater than 4.5 million individuals have signed a petition calling for Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, to grant clemency to Aguilera-Mederos or commute his sentence. In the meantime, truckers and civil rights teams have expressed outrage over the sentence.

“It’s a stark miscarriage of justice,” stated Domingo Garcia, the president of the League of United Latin American Residents (Lulac). “Right here’s a person with no prior felony document who went to work to feed his household. The brakes exit on his truck. It was a horrible accident. He’s given 110 years for the primary crime he’s ever dedicated, against the law that was not intentional.”

Lulac despatched a letter to Polis on behalf of Aguilera-Mederos, a Cuban immigrant, requesting a pardon or a discount of his sentence. Aguilera-Mederos’ lawyer has filed a clemency petition to the governor.

Aguilera-Mederos’s truck plowed into automobiles that had slowed as a result of of one other wreck within the Denver suburb of Lakewood, resulting in a chain-reaction collision involving 28 automobiles that ruptured fuel tanks and brought on a fireball that consumed automobiles and melted components of the freeway.

The crash killed Miguel Angel Lamas Arellano, 24, William Bailey, 67, Doyle Harrison, 61, and Stanley Politano, 69.

Prosecutors argued that Aguilera-Mederos might have used a runaway ramp alongside the interstate, which is designed to securely cease automobiles which have misplaced the operate of their brakes. However, Aguilera-Mederos testified that he was struggling to keep away from site visitors and to shift his truck into decrease gear to gradual it down.

Alexis King, the district lawyer whose workplace prosecuted the case, instructed the Denver Publish that Aguilera-Mederos didn’t settle for efforts to barter a plea deal, and that the convictions acknowledged the hurt brought on to victims of the crash.

Beneath the reconsideration movement filed by the district lawyer, the court docket can modify the sentence and go under the necessary minimal, stated Ann England, who teaches within the felony protection clinic on the College of Colorado legislation faculty.

The decide within the case, Bruce Jones, had stated the sentence was the necessary minimal time period required beneath state legislation, however {that a} lesser punishment could be acceptable. Necessary minimal sentencing legal guidelines required that sentences on 27 counts of vehicular assault, assault, reckless driving and different prices run consecutively. “I’ll state that if I had the discretion, it might not be my sentence,” he stated.

Necessary minimal sentences have helped to drive mass incarceration and over-incarceration in Colorado and the US, England stated.

“I believe individuals must be asking why we have now these necessary minimal jail sentences,” England stated. Necessary minimal sentencing takes the discretion out of the courts, and strikes the stability of energy from the court docket to the prosecutor, she stated.

This case, England added, is “a condemnation of the best way the system works and the best way the necessary sentencing works”.

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The ACLU of Colorado has condemned the sentence and helps efforts to get the governor to take up the case, stated Mark Silverstein, the authorized director of the ACLU of Colorado.

“The sentence is extraordinary particularly in mild of details of this explicit case,” Silverstein stated. “It underscores the issues with the felony justice system.”

At Aguilera-Mederos’ sentencing, kin of these killed within the collision stated he ought to serve time for the crimes. Duane Bailey, the brother of William Bailey, requested the decide to condemn Aguilera-Mederos to a minimum of 20 years, the Publish reported. “He made a deliberate and intentional determination that his life was extra vital than everybody else on the highway that day,” he stated.

Aguilera-Mederos wept as he apologized to the victims’ households at his sentencing. He requested for their forgiveness. “I’m not a assassin. I’m not a killer. After I have a look at my prices, we’re speaking a few assassin, which isn’t me,” he stated. “I’ve by no means thought of hurting anyone in my total life.”

The Related Press contributed reporting

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