Nevada Supreme Court to Weigh Mandatory Life Sentence for Lewdness
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: September 15, 2011
WASHINGTON D.C. - Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) President Julie Stewart announces that Michelle Lyn Taylor’s appeal will be heard by the Nevada Supreme Court today, Thursday, September 15, at 11:30 am (Pacific). FAMM issued its first statement shortly after her sentencing in April 2009, and, last October, filed an amicus brief in which we argued that the mandatory life sentence violated her constitutional right to be spared from cruel and unusual punishment. Download FAMM's amicus brief on Michelle.
Ms. Taylor, 34, was convicted under Nevada’s “life-for-lewdness” law in November 2009 for drunkenly forcing a 13-year-old boy to touch her breast and demanding (unsuccessfully) that the boy engage in sex. Neither the judge, nor one of the original legislative sponsors of the lewdness law, felt the punishment fit the crime. Still, the existence of the mandatory minimum law forced the court to sentence Taylor to life in prison with possibility for parole in 10 years.
Ms. Stewart said, “I want to be clear: FAMM does not defend or condone any illegal behavior, whether it is drug trafficking, unlawful firearm possession, or anything else. And we certainly will not defend the kind of criminal misconduct exhibited by Ms. Taylor in which an innocent minor was sexually abused. We believe in strong punishment, including prison, for sexual predators.
“In all cases, however, FAMM is committed to the bedrock principle of justice that individuals should be punished based on the severity of their crime as well as their personal culpability. In Ms. Taylor’s case, the life-for-lewdness law is written so broadly that she could have received a shorter sentence if she had murdered or kidnapped her victim. Hers was not the case lawmakers had in mind when they set the mandatory life penalty. But, once again, a mandatory minimum law took away the court’s discretion to impose a more reasonable sentence,” said Stewart.
FAMM noted in its brief that Nevada is the only jurisdiction in the country that requires a mandatory life sentence for lewd conduct. The majority of states provide punishment of between several months to five years in prison. The minority of states that permit more severe penalties do so without utilizing mandatory minimum sentences anywhere near the life sentence required under Nevada law. Indeed, only two states even allow, in the broad exercise of a sentencing court’s discretion, that a life sentence might be imposed for such conduct in the most egregious cases.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supporting fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow judicial discretion while maintaining public safety. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.