The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a new sentencing hearing for a man convicted of reckless driving in a Las Vegas crash that left two dead.
Henry Aparicio, 27, rear-ended a stopped car occupied by Christa and Damaso Puentes in May 2018. Aparicio was going about 100 mph, according to the opinion. Both victims died at the scene.
Aparicio was charged with two counts of DUI resulting in death and one of substantial bodily harm. He pleaded guilty to the two death charges and reckless driving and was sentenced in October 2019.
The problem arose after the prosecution provided the judge in the case with 50 victim impact letters from family, friends and coworkers. The judge said in sentencing him that she had fully reviewed all those letters in determining his sentence. She ordered he serve up to 44 years in prison.
Aparicio’s legal team argued that fully 46 of those letters were not actually from victims under the law and should have been disregarded. They said the judge abused her discretion in the case.
The high court ruled unanimously in Aparicio’s favor saying that the statutory and constitutional definitions of victim is the person or persons who are legally injured or harmed as a direct result of the defendant’s conduct.
“Neither definition of victim, however, includes anyone and everyone who was affected by the crime,” the opinion states.
Given the judge’s statements at sentencing, they ruled that error in legal interpretation cannot be considered harmless.
They ordered a new sentencing hearing before a different judge.