Abbott attacked and wounded a second aunt in the street before being apprehended by police.
In an agreement with the state, Abbott pleaded “guilty but mentally ill” to the homicides, and also to one count of first-degree assault. He never went on trial.
At sentencing in Sitka, Superior Court Judge David George crafted a penalty to protect the public, and to ensure that Abbott would not be automatically released from jail in his lifetime. But the judge also concluded that medical research might someday find a way to control Abbott’s dangerous mental illness.
As a result, George imposed a sentence of 140 year’s imprisonment for Abbott, with the sentences for the murders and the assault imposed consecutively. Under the sentence, Abbott, now twenty-one-years old, can apply for discretionary parole when he is sixty-six.
Abbott, represented Marcie McDannel, with the Office of Public Advocacy in Anchorage, appealed. In her brief, McDannel claimed that Abbott’s sentence violated the principle of “parsimony,” which suggests that defendant should only remain in jail long enough to achieve the objectives of sentencing.
McDannel argued that under the principle of parsimony Abbott should serve his sentence for assault concurrently with the sentences for murder. That would add up to 129 years, making Abbott eligible for parole earlier.
In its three-page ruling, the appellate court did not address the idea of parsimony. The court instead said it had only an obligation to review the sentence to determine whether it is “clearly mistaken.”
The opinion of the three-judge panel seemed to favor public safety, and was based on precedent. In “first-degree murder cases involving multiple victims,” they wrote, “where the circumstances suggest that the defendant should spend his life in prison to protect the public… We conclude that the sentencing decision in this case was not clearly mistaken.”
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