Aggravated kidnapping is one of the most serious crimes the state of Utah has legislated and recommends a life without parole (LWOP) sentence absent a finding of mitigating factors or a finding that the interests of justice warrant a lesser sentence. The Utah supreme court addressed such a case recently and reversed the court of appeals’ decision finding that a district court correctly sentenced a defendant to LWOP. The Utah supreme court found that the district court considered only those mitigating factors recognized by the sentencing commission rather than considering generally the “interests of justice” as required by the aggravated kidnapping statute.
LeBeau v. State
In this case the defendant lived with his girlfriend. He was suspecting that she was having an affair. When she didn’t come home one night and refused to tell him where she had been she he became enraged and began to beat her. He then forced her into his car and started driving toward her alleged lover’s home. A cop started following him. As he entered the neighborhood where his girlfriend’s lover lived, his girlfriend attempted to escape the car. LeBeau collided with the lover’s truck throwing his girlfriend from the car. She sustained significant injuries.
LeBeau was convicted of aggravated kidnapping. At the sentencing he presented evidence that he believed should have constituted a mitigating factor that would have reduced his sentence from the LWOP. Additionally, the defendant argued that the “interests of justice” should have convinced the court that the sentence should not have been for LWOP.
The Utah supreme court found that the district court erred by not considering the “interest of justice” as required by the aggravated kidnapping statute. The supreme court then sent the case back down to the district court for further sentencing to determine whether the interests of justice would require a reduction of the LWOP sentence.