Judge to Hear Mont Vernon Resentencing
U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Invalidated 1st Punishment
Manchester — Attorneys today will argue again whether Steven Spader should spend the rest of his natural life in prison for the murderous 2009 invasion of a Mont Vernon home.
The sentencing hearing will take place in Hillsborough County Superior Court North before Judge Gillian L. Abramson, who presided over Spader’s trial.
The sentencing hearing is scheduled for all day, and can run over to tomorrow if necessary.
The new sentence — which could be the same as the old sentence — is scheduled to be imposed Friday.
Spader and accomplice Christopher Gribble were convicted of murdering Kimberly Cates, 42, and maiming her then-11-year-old daughter Jaimie in 2009.
They received mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole after Spader was found guilty and a jury rejected Gribble’s insanity defense.
Spader was sentenced to serve an additional 76 years on other charges, as well.
However, Spader’s sentence was ruled invalid because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that it’s unconstitutional to impose an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole on a minor.
Spader was 17 at the time of the Cates murder.
The ruling, Miller vs. Alabama, doesn’t mean Spader, now 21, or any other minor can’t be sentenced to life without parole, just that the sentence can’t be automatic without considering the individual case.
In re-sentencing Spader, the Miller ruling requires the court to “consider such factors as defendant’s age ‘and its hallmark feature,’ including immaturity, failure to appreciate consequences and risks, and impetuosity/recklessness,” according to court documents filed in the Spader case.
“The Court shall also contemplate defendant’s family and home environment, including any inability to extricate himself from a brutal or dysfunctional home; the circumstances surrounding the homicide, such as the extent of defendant’s participation and whether he was susceptible to peer and/or family pressures; and defendant’s capacity for change or rehabilitation,” according to court documents.
“Finally, the Court will consider the defendant’s character, specifically whether he displayed irretrievable depravity; whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or has a history of abuse of same; and whether he has a history of mental illness,” according to the documents.
Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin said he expects the hearing to include legal arguments and memoranda as well as live witnesses who will testify. The state will again ask the judge to impose a life sentence without the chance of parole.
Spader’s lawyer, Concord attorney Jonathan Cohen, said he anticipated calling three to five witnesses but declined to name them. Cohen also declined to comment on what sentence he will request.
Abramson showed no inclination to show Spader mercy after a jury convicted him on Nov. 9, 2010, coincidentally the date of his 19th birthday.
“I could go on for days and days about the depth of your depravity,” the judge said while sentencing the Brookline native. “You belong in a cage. And you should stay in that cage for the rest of your pointless life.”
The Attorney General’s Office concedes that Spader’s case falls within the Miller vs. Alabama ruling because Spader’s case was on appeal when the ruling was issued.
However, there are four other murder sentences in New Hampshire that the Attorney General believes shouldn’t be affected by the ruling, setting up a legal challenge.
All were younger than 18 when they received mandatory life prison terms without the chance for parole.
They are Robert Tulloch, now 29, who pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the 2001 slayings of married Dartmouth College professors Half and Susanne Zantop; Robert Dingman, who was convicted with his younger brother of the 1996 murders of their parents in their Rochester home; Eduardo Lopez Jr., who was convicted of fatally shooting Robert Goyette during a 1991 Nashua robbery; and Michael Soto, who was convicted of accomplice to first-degree murder in the 2007 shooting of Aaron Kar in Manchester.