Appellate judges have upheld the enhanced sentence of convicted child killer Robert Doney, Jr., who pleaded guilty in 2005 to bludgeoning a 2-year-old girl to death as her mother pleaded for her life on the day after Christmas 2003.
The case has bounced repeatedly back between the Division III Court of Appeals and Washington Supreme Court based on legal arguments surrounding the exceptional sentence levied against Doney.
While Doney, 36, admitted killing 2-year-old Victoria Ramon, he disputed the determinations – known as aggravating factors -- that he showed a lack of remorse, acted with deliberate cruelty and that Ramon was particularly vulnerable.
A jury found two of three of those factors and Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque sentenced Doney in 2005 to 35 years in prison, which was more than seven years longer than the standard sentence for first-degree murder.
Doney and his attorney appealed and the courts eventually overturned the enhanced sentence until the Washington Legislature amended the law that allows judges to empanel juries to decide aggravated sentences.
Then in 2010, another jury found aggravating factors and Leveque imposed the same 35-year sentence against Doney. He appealed on the grounds that Leveque did not have the authority to apply the law retroactively, but the appellate judges today unanimously ruled against Doney and upheld Leveque’s sentencing.
“All defendants who received an exceptional sentence based on aggravating factors are eligible for a jury trial on remand to determine whether the aggravating factors exist,” Judge Teresa Kulik wrote for the majority. “The application of the statute does not violate the due process clause.”