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Hearing will determine if convicted killer Spader gets new sentence

By KATHRYN MARCHOCKI
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 18. 2012 10:42PM

Steven Spader at his 2009 arraignment (UNION LEADER FILE)


MANCHESTER - Steven Spader's appeal of his convictions as the murderous mastermind of the 2009 Mont Vernon armed home invasion is stayed and his case sent back to the trial court for resentencing in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that makes it illegal to automatically sentence juveniles to life in prison without chance of parole.

State homicide prosecutors agreed with Spader's defense attorneys that the Miller v. Alabama decision requires the court to hold a new sentencing hearing on Spader's first-degree murder conviction for the hacking death of Kimberly L. Cates, 42, and the attempted murder and maiming of her daughter, Jaimie.

Parties will discuss how to proceed at a hearing Tuesday in Hillsborough County Superior Court before Judge Gillian L. Abramson, who presided at the lengthy trial.

Spader, who was 17 at the time of the crimes, was sentenced in 2010 to life in prison without chance of parole - which New Hampshire state law requires for first-degree murder convictions.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 25 in Miller that state sentencing schemes that impose mandatory life prison terms without chance of parole for murderers who were under 18 years old at the time of their crimes violates federal constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

In addition to receiving a life sentence for murder, Spader, 20, also was sentenced to 76 years to life in prison for attempted murder, murder conspiracy, burglary conspiracy and witness tampering.

A resentencing hearing would allow the state and defense to argue for whatever sentence they want and would require the court to consider evidence of Spader's immaturity, impulsiveness and potential for rehabilitation. The judge could still impose a sentence of life without chance of parole on the first-degree murder conviction - it just no longer can be an automatic penalty .

Since Spader's case is pending direct appeal before the state Supreme Court, state homicide prosecutors agreed with the defense that resentencing hearings must be held on all five convictions.

The state Supreme Court last week stayed the 20-year-old former Merrimack resident's appeal and remanded his case to Hillsborough County Superior Court for resentencing. Oral arguments were to be held Oct. 11.

In their motion for a new sentencing hearing, defense attorneys Jonathan Cohen and Andrew S. Winters of Concord claimed that the 76 years to life sentence Spader received on the non-murder charges is 'tantamount to a consecutive sentence of life without parole' since Spader would be 93 years old before getting a chance at parole.

But Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery A. Strelzin disagreed with the defense claim that the Miller ruling applies to the non-murder convictions. Strelzin also noted state sentencing laws entitle Spader to parole on each of the non-murder convictions.

kmarchocki@unionleader.com


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