Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sentence Deferred 16 Years Not To Be Resumed

In the case of Commonwealth v. Ly, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that a convicted rapist may not be compelled to complete his sentence after a delay of 16 years by the state. Vith Ly was granted a stay of execution pending appeal in 1990. In 1991, one of his convictions was affirmed, but he was never ordered to serve his sentence. The court says "a defendant who unsuccessfully appeals from a criminal conviction bears no burden to come forward voluntarily to be taken into custody and incarcerated." The Commonwealth failed to report to the court "the immediate necessity to revoke the stay of execution of the defendant's sentences, " and failed to notice the error in subsequent years despite the arrests of Ly in 1999 and 2001.

According to the court, "it is a basic principle that a defendant sentenced to incarceration has a due process right to serve the sentence promptly and continuously, rather than 'in installments.'"

"We conclude that execution of the defendant's sentences, after an unexplained delay of sixteen years on the part of the Commonwealth to have the sentences executed, would violate due process and principles of fundamental fairness. "