ALLOCUTUS IN MANDATORY SENTENCES: CASE COMMENT ON EDWIN V STATE

JUSTIN ILEKA

Abstract


In a mandatory sentence, as in capital offences, the trial Judge has no discretion but to impose the statutory prescribed sentence if the defendant has been found guilty of the offence. If it were not a case of a mandatory sentence, the Judge may exercise the discretion to impose a sentence within the range of the minimum sentence to the maximum sentence. In such a case, one of the factors that may affect the exercise of this discretion is the plea for mercy or plea in mitigation, technically referred to as “allocutus” or “allocution” made by the defendant or counsel on his or her behalf the conviction. In the event the Judge must impose a particular specified sentence on the conviction of the defendant, it would appear that the allocutus would have no value as it cannot persuade the Judge whose “hands are tied” to be any more lenient than to impose the prescribed mandatory sentence. Of course, no amount of plea of mercy or plea in mitigation would move the Judge to mitigate or vary the mandatory sentence. Interestingly, the relevant laws providing for allocutus in criminal trial did not exclude the application of allocutus in cases of mandatory sentences. Moreover, the fate of the convicted defendant, even a defendant convicted of a capital offence is not permanently sealed even as the trial court becomes functus officio. Indeed, there is a host of reliefs still available after sentencing apart from the interventions of the appellate courts. To this end, the record of the allocutus and the Judge’s remark on it are very relevant in the determination of some of these post-sentence reliefs. Furthermore, allocutus has a therapeutic value in the criminal trial which value is not necessarily connected with mitigation of sentence, which the Supreme Court in Edwin v State believed to be the sole purpose of allocutus in criminal trials. This paper focuses on these other purposes of allocutus other than mitigation of sentence in arguing that allocutus is necessary even in cases involving mandatory sentences, including capital sentences.

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