A Florida man who was 21 when he repeatedly raped a 3-year-old child is challenging the constitutionality of his multiple life sentences on the basis that his age when he committed the transgressions wasn’t considered a mitigating factor at his trial.
The Pensacola News Journal reported that Charles Hoyt McConnell III, 23, routinely recorded himself violating the toddler over a two-month period in 2016 and disseminated the footage over social media. McConnell was arrested when his wife discovered the unsettling footage and alerted police.
In December, a judge handed McConnell three consecutive life sentences plus 495 years after he was convicted of more than 30 charges related to the repeated sexual assaults.
But recently, Second Judicial Circuit public defender Andy Thomas filed a motion accusing the court of overlooking McConnell’s age and failing to order an emotional maturity assessment before condemning him to life.
The local newspaper noted that their motion comes on the heels of multiple reversals in life and death penalty sentences due to the defendant’s age.
The defense wrote in their motion that Florida’s finding that 18 signals adulthood “is at odds with developmental cognitive neuroscience,” according to the newspaper.
“Ongoing developments in brain science and psychological research support extending (prior case law) protections to older teens and young adults, like defendant McConnell, for the simple reason that individuals in their late teens and early 20s are neurologically and developmentally closer to adolescents than to older adults when it comes to matters such as eliminating risk, controlling impulses, considering future consequences and developing social and emotional maturity,” the motion read.
The trial judge has 60 days to decide whether he’ll hear the latest argument or it will be presented to the First District Court of Appeals. Chief Assistant State Attorney Greg Marcille told the News Journal that they’ll challenge the motion if it’s brought before the court.
“It appears an attempt to apply the rules that are applicable to juveniles to adults over the age of 18 and we don’t believe that’s an appropriate extension of those other rulings,” he said. “The defendant was over the age of 18 and therefore he was legally an adult, and those laws should apply to him.”
[Featured image: Charles Hoyt McConnell III/Escambia County Jail]