Slaying of Teenager Prompts N.M. Sex Crimes Sentencing Debate

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High-profile sex crimes, including the recent slaying of a Santa Fe girl at an Albuquerque theater, have propelled the issue of tightening New Mexico’s sex-offender laws to the forefront, The Santa Fe New Mexican reports.

Gov. Bill Richardson wants the Legislature at its special session beginning Oct. 27 to increase mandatory penalties for child rape and to limit bail for accused sex offenders.

The governor also might ask lawmakers to specify that certain sex offenders will remain in prison indefinitely, until experts certify they no longer pose a threat to society.

The recent killing of Santa Fe teenager Marissa Mathy-Zvaifler at Albuquerque’s Sunshine Theater was particularly vile and has received extraordinary attention.

Authorities charged Dominic Akers, 22, with murder in connection with the girl’s death. He was a janitor at the theater and police say he killed her during a concert when she resisted his sexual advances.

At the time of Mathy-Zvaifler’s death, Akers was out on probation from his conviction last year of sexually molesting a 4-year-old child.

While Akers could have been sentenced to 18 years in prison for the molestation conviction, Judge Ross Sanchez of Albuquerque granted Akers probation on the basis of a psychological report that concluded he would be amenable to treatment. Yet Akers never attended a state treatment program in Las Vegas because it was full.

Akers was living in an Albuquerque halfway house for sex offenders when Mathy-Zvaifler was killed. Now, at 380 pounds and with a glowering, sulking appearance, Akers has become the posterboy for a criminal justice system on the ropes.

Former New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Gene Franchini says Richardson’s proposal stinks.

”It’s the same old politics,” Franchini said. ”Every politician does it when it comes to the crime du jour. And that’s the one that’s prevalent now.

”These kinds of things don’t help anything, don’t prevent the crime from happening, and certainly don’t do anything to cure the mental and physical state of the defendants that commit these crimes,” Franchini said of Richardson’s proposal. ”That’s history. All it does is fill up penitentiaries.”

In order for the criminal justice system to function, Franchini says, judges must have discretion in sentencing defendants. ”That’s where the justice is,” he said.

”All this does is shift the discretion to the district attorney, and they can shift what the sentence is going to be by manipulating the charge.”


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