Life in prison worse than death sentence for Cecil New, judge says - Louisville Courier Journal
Saying the death penalty was not a harsh enough punishment, a judge ordered for Cecil New II to serve the rest of his life in prison, surrounded by “bigger, meaner men who have nothing to lose.”
“He will fear for his life every day,” Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman told the family of 4-year-old Ivan Aguilar-Cano, who disappeared while playing outside his home near Churchill Downs in 2007 and was murdered by New. “He will wish this court had put him on death row.”
Since a November hearing in which prosecutors asked that New be sentenced to death, McDonald-Burkman said she had investigated the differences between the life of a death-row inmate and one serving a life sentence. On death row, she said, inmates are segregated from other prisoners and can have meals sent to their cell without ever having to be around anyone else, and typically an execution is not scheduled for at least 20 years. With the life sentence, New must congregate with other prisoners and “is never truly isolated.”
“Death is undoubtedly justified for you,” the judge told New. “There’s not one cell in your body, Cecil New, that can be rehabilitated, not one. But is a death sentence justice?” The unusually frank language from McDonald-Burkman included scenarios on how New’s life would play out in the general population. “Death is easy,” she said. “Living outside of death row, in general population in fear of prison justice every day is a hell more suited to you, Mr. New, than living under the protective guise of death row.”....
On Oct. 14, the day before his trial, New surprised many by pleading guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping, tampering with physical evidence and unlawful transaction with a minor. However, New did not negotiate a plea bargain and entered what is known as an open plea, which made him eligible to receive the death penalty and waiving his right to an appeal.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jon Heck had asked McDonald-Burkman on Nov. 16 to give New the death penalty, saying he deserved to die for his actions. But Jay Lambert, New's attorney, argued that New's life should be spared because of a horrific childhood that, at least in part, helped make him into who he is.
After the sentencing, Heck said he agreed with the judge’s reasoning that the life sentence was the greatest penalty. “He will serve out his life a tormented man,” Heck said. “And I think he deserves that.”