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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Rene Lima-Marin: Back in Prison After His Inadvertent Early Parole

     In September 1998, 20-year-old Rene Lima-Marin and another man in Aurora, Colorado, a suburban city adjacent to Denver, robbed two video stores at gunpoint. Lima-Marin held a gun to the back of a store clerk's head and said, "This is where you're going to die." The robbery victim, while seriously traumatized, was not shot.

     Upon his conviction in 2000 of robbery, kidnapping and burglary, the judge sentenced Lima-Marin to two back-to-back prison terms that totaled 98 years. In other words, the convicted man would do separate time for each robbery. (To receive such heavy punishment for an offense that wasn't homicide, Lima-Marin must have come to court with a serious history of crime.)

     Following Lima-Marin's sentencing, a court clerk mistakingly wrote into the convicted man's file that the two sentences were to run at the same time. As a result of this clerical error, Lima-Marin was paroled in 2008, 90 years early. Although he knew of the error that freed him, he did not call it to the attention of prison authorities.

     After his release from the penitentiary, Lima-Marin married Jasmine, his former girlfriend. He helped her raise her son and they had a child of their own. He got a job and became active in a local church.

     In January 2014, Colorado prison authorities discovered the mistake in Lima-Marin's file. Police officers arrested the 35-year-old and returned him to prison. He had been free almost six years.

     Through his attorney Patrick Megaro, Lima-Marin filed an appeal claiming that his re-incarceration amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The attorney, in speaking to reporters about his client's case, said, "To give a man this false sense of hope and allow him to create a family and have a child and believe he could live a normal life as a father and husband and then to snatch him away from that is extremely cruel." (Perhaps it is splitting hairs to note that the system did not intentionally grant Mr. Lima-Marin his freedom. It happened inadvertently.)

     Lima-Marin's wife Jasmine said this to reporters: "He's not the same person he was then. He's very supportive. He's just a great guy. I have full faith that my husband is going to be back home."

     It's probably true that this man is a rehabilitated person. He's older, wiser, and has a family. And no doubt getting a taste of freedom, then abruptly losing it, is tough, even cruel. But until a judge changes the sentence or the governor pardons him, this inmate isn't leaving prison. Unless the original sentence was too harsh, the state did not violate his constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment. 

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