State Supreme Court considers that question in murder case
At 17, Allen Dwyer slipped inside an unlocked home, killed the old man who lived there and stole $90 to feed his methamphetamine addiction.
Haunted because he took a life, Dwyer walked into a police station two years later and confessed.
Dwyer pleaded guilty to felony murder in 2011, and a state district judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Quici, the victim, was an active senior
Now, in an appeal to the state Supreme Court, Dwyer calls that punishment “cruel and unusual.”
His public defender says a psychological evaluation recommended a 10-year prison term, given Dwyer’s youth and remorse.
In addition, Dwyer says he should qualify for 30 days of good time for every month he serves. His plea bargain limits his good time to four days a month, meaning he must serve almost 13 years of his 15-year sentence.
Dwyer’s appeal is one of eight cases that the New Mexico Supreme Court has accepted for August. The justices will not hear arguments in his case, but will review briefs submitted by the state attorney general and public defender.
Dwyer’s crime occurred in January 2008 in Roswell, where he targeted an 82-year-old man named Tony Quici. Active and fit, Quici participated in the Senior Olympics and enjoyed spending time at a senior center.
He died several days after a Meals on Wheels worker found him facedown in a pool of blood.
Based on Quici’s injuries from a beating, police from the beginning considered his death a homicide. But Dwyer had wiped the house clean of fingerprints, leaving police without a suspect or any solid leads.
Then in 2010, Dwyer stepped forward to implicate himself and solve the case.
He struck a deal with prosecutors that classified him as a serious youthful offender.
The plea agreement called for a 20-year prison sentence, but court records state that District Judge Ralph Shamas suspended five years, consideration for Dwyer’s contrition and the fact that he confessed. Prosecutors agreed to that cap in punishment.
Briefs filed with the Supreme Court state that Shamas also said Dwyer would have faced a 20- to 30-year sentence had he been caught fleeing Quici’s house after mortally wounding him.
The judge said he did not consider Dwyer’s meth addiction in determining punishment, as those dependent on illegal drugs then could seek leniency whenever they committed a crime.
Attorney General Gary King’s staff stated in its brief that a voluntary plea of guilty ordinarily means a defendant waives his right of appeal. The government said Dwyer’s punishment was appropriate for a terrible crime and should stand.
Dwyer’s public defender countered that Shamas “abused his discretion” and that limiting good time to four days a month was “a clear error of judgment.”