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Discovery of AIDS Doesn't Render Sentence Cruel And Unusual

On February 9, 1990, a New York court held that a prisoner who subsequent to sentencing discovered he had AIDS could not have his sentence set aside as being cruel and unusual.

Angel Escobales, a New York state prisoner, pleaded guilty to drug charges in a plea bargain for a two-to-four-year sentence. Shortly thereafter, he discovered that he had advanced AIDS and was expected to live 12 to 18 months. He then filed a motion to set aside his sentence as cruel and unusual punishment.

The court noted that it would be highly unusual for a court to find a sentence that is within the bounds of a valid statute cruel and unusual. In the rare cases in which this is done, the court conducts an analysis whereby the gravity of the offense is weighed against the danger the prisoner poses to society. However, Escobales would lose such an analysis because he negotiated a very good plea bargain and drug offenders are a danger to society. But, Escobales wanted a subjective analysis which would be a determination of whether the prisoner's confinement was so subhuman as to be cruel and unusual. Fscobales was receiving treatment for AIDS at Rikers Island Hospital, not subhuman treatment. Therefore, his sentence cannot be declared unconstitutionally cruel and unusual. Furthermore, a prisoner's affliction with AIDS is not an extraordinary circumstance warranting interference with a sentence imposed within statutory guidelines. See: New York v. Escobales, 146 Misc. 2d 573; 551 N.Y.S.2d 757; (1990).

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Related legal case

New York v. Escobales