Montana’s Supreme Court shot down a judge’s attempt to review the controversial 30 day prison sentence he handed to a convicted rapist.
Judge G. Todd Baugh originally gave former high school teacher Stacey Rambold 30 days in prison for raping his underage student Cherise Morales, who later committed suicide. Many criticized the sentence as too lenient. (Via KFBB)
After intense public backlash against the ruling, the judge called for a second hearing to resentence Rambold, after admitting his initial sentence may have been illegal.
But on Friday, four out of seven Montana Supreme Court justices denied Judge Baugh a second hearing, claiming the judge does not have the authority to reissue a verdict. The court’s ruling came less than one hour before Baugh was scheduled to begin his do-over sentencing. (Via Los Angeles Times)
Montana’s Attorney General Tim Fox told KTVH the Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t reflect on the legality of the sentence, and he expects Baugh’s decision to be challenged in court.
“We have not made a decision as to what kind of arguments we will make in the Supreme Court, but eventually there will be briefs filed and arguments made by both parties I’m sure.”
Surprisingly, Slate reports the Supreme Court’s decision drew praise from both the defense and the prosecution.
“The defense, as you would guess, is quite pleased with the 30-day sentence, while the prosecution feared that revisiting the sentence now would undermine its formal appeal, which is currently winding its way through the state court system.”
But despite the court’s order to vacate the hearing, Baugh showed up in court anyway, reviewing the case’s history for about 10 minutes for an audience of media representatives. (Via Billings Gazette)
A CNN reporter later described the empty hearing as a surreal experience.
“It was just a very odd moment. There was no defendant in court, there were no lawyers, the seats were empty. The judge was speaking anyway, even though the state said the hearing’s vacated.”
Prosecutors have filed an official appeal of Rambold’s sentence. That appeal is currently awaiting review of the state Supreme Court.
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