Michelle Lyn Taylor’s life sentence for molesting a 13 year old Jackpot boy three years ago is now before the Nevada Supreme Court, said the woman’s appellant attorney Jack Cornell.
“We are claiming that her life sentence is unconstitutional as it is cruel and unusual punishment,” Cornell said Tuesday in an interview with the High Desert Advocate.
Taylor was sentenced to life in prison in 2010 in a case the gained the interest of the country primarily because of heavy punishment and the emotional performance by her trial attorney Alina by Kilpatrick at the woman’s sentencing.
In one of the most eloquent and impassioned speeches ever heard in an Elko County Courtroom the Elko Public Defender pleaded with Judge Michael Memeo not to impose the mandatory life sentence on Michelle Lyn Taylor for forcing a boy to touch her breasts three years ago in Jackpot.
Viral sentencing video below
While obviously deeply moved with her plea and confessing dismay at why no plea bargain was ever offered to the Twin falls woman, Memeo had no choice but to sentence the 34 year old Taylor to the only sentence allowed by the legislature– Life in prison with the earliest possible parole after ten years.
When hearing was first posted on the Advocate’s web page www.coyote-tv.com the video went viral garnering over 100,000 views.
Taylor was convicted of lewdness with a minor under 14 in November 2009 after a week-long trial.
According to Kilpatrick the woman had been offered no plea bargain and that the jury had not been informed that the life sentence would be imposed on Taylor should she be found guilty.
In 2007 the Nevada Legislature removed any discretion from a judge in the sentencing of lewdness with minors and set a blanket mandatory life sentence for all offenders convicted of the crime.
Since then well over 95 percent of defendants originally charged with the crime plead guilty to a lessor charge with a greatly reduced penalty.
“Why you were charged with these crimes particularly, I don’t know,” Memeo said at the time. “Why plea bargains are offered to some and not to others, I don’t know. I do know that you were charged and found guilty for this charge by a jury and this is the sentence. Good luck.”
Memeo was known as being generally opposed to the plea bargain process because he has said allows for unequal justice and different outcomes for essentially the same crime or a harsher sentence for a lessor crime and a more lenient sentence for a severe violation.
Underscoring that argument Kilpatrick brought up example after example of Nevada women originally charged with much harsher much more venal cases of child abuse who did not receive any where near the sentence her client must now serve.
“If she was charged with murder,” Kilpatrick said. “She would be facing a 50 year sentence.”
All sides of the case agree to the details.
In February 2008 Taylor was in an apartment with a friend’s 13 year old boy, kissed the youth told him to fondle her breasts and asked him to have sex with her.
“That was it,” then District Attorney Gary Woodbury said in an interview with the High Desert Advocate. “That was all the investigation found.”
The District Attorney did say that initial plea negotiations were begun but were quickly stopped when Taylor said she would refuse any plea bargain that included her having to register as a sex offender.
However even Woodbury said that the mandatory sentence did not fit this particular crime.
“Don’t get me wrong, this woman was convicted of serious crime,” Woodbury said. “When plea negotiations broke down we had no choice but to charge her and once convicted the judge (Mike Memeo) had to follow the sentencing guidelines. The people to blame are the legislators who passed this law.”
“This is what happens when the legislature passes a blanket law and takes the discretion out of the courtroom.”
Taylor began her life sentence immediately after her sentence was handed down.
Taylor has always claimed she was intoxicated and doesn’t remember what happened that night. She told jurors during her trial that she roughhoused with the boy, but didn’t force him to touch her inappropriately.