Brief Fact Summary.
Gilbert (defendant) was convicted of first degree murder for the deliberate, premeditated, murder of his wife, Emily Gilbert.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Courts may not consider mitigating factors when evaluating minimum mandatory statutory sentences.
Gilbert (defendant) was 75 years of age and married to Emily Gilbert for over 50 years. The couple lived in a condo in Florida. Emily Gilbert suffered from a number of aliments including Alzheimer's and Osteoporosis, which kept in her constant agonizing pain. Various witnesses testified at trial that they would see Emily crying and looking very sick, and that her condition had continued to deteriorate over the years. Emily became very dependent on her husband, the defendant. At one point, the defendant took Emily to the hospital, but she became upset and wanted to go home. The next day, the couple went out to lunch as they routinely did and when they returned home the defendant gave Emily her pain medication, but it failed to work, and Emily remained in pain, saying “somebody please help me.” The defendant testified that he knew he had to help his wife and the only way he was able to help her was to shoot her in the head and he wanted to end her suffering, regardless of the consequences. The defendant was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Under Florida statute § 775.082 the mandatory minimum sentence for first degree murder was 25 years.
Whether courts may consider certain mitigating factors when the defendant is subject to a statutory mandatory minimum sentence?
No, courts may not consider any mitigating factors when applying a mandatory minimum sentence.
The wording of the statute indicates that courts do have some leeway in adjusting a mandatory minimum sentence. I agree with the majority reaffirming the defendant’s sentence.
When a court is applying a mandatory minimum sentence, as opposed to consulting sentencing guidelines, they may not consider mitigating factors. The purpose of sentencing guidelines is to set different levels of categories, and how defendants who fall into the various categories should be punished. This is for the legislature to decide and not the courts. While it does seem that the defendant murder his wife based on compassion, Florida law does not recognize an exception to premeditated murder based on a mercy killing. There is no evidence the defendant would ever commit another crime and he has no criminal record, but this does not change the fact he murdered his wife with premeditation and deliberation.