Continued from Syracuse Post Standard – Social Worker Takes Tough Cases – Page 1
Just recently, Luciani wrote a lengthy report arguing against the death penalty for Holmquist, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder this month in the robbery and beating death of Roland E. “Bud” Scoville, of Cayuga, last summer. Holmquist attacked Scoville with a baseball bat.
Cayuga County District Attorney James Vargason said Luciani’s report did not sway his thinking when he decided against seeking the death penalty earlier this month.
“It carried no weight,” said Vargason, who was empowered to make the irrevocable decision.
“He’s hired by the defense, so he brings a certain perspective. As prosecutor, it’s important to know who prepared the report and who’s paying the bill,” he said.
Auburn defense lawyer David Elkovitch said Luciani played a critical role in obtaining a lenient sentence for Davis, who had set fire to her Fleming home to kill her 13-year-old autistic son. He had sexually abused her - more than once, she testified in court.
In his pre-sentence report, Luciani said he tried to show that Davis was “at her wit’s end” trying to cope with her son’s violent behavior, and he included statements from experts on autism and the traumatic effects of rape and incest.
He recommended a prison sentence of not more than seven years.
“We tried to document the best we could the frustration level in this woman. But this doesn’t excuse it. She’s in prison now and will be carrying the guilt of the loss of her son for the rest of her life,” he said.
County Judge Peter E. Corning said he took Luciani’s report into consideration when he sentenced Davis to six years in prison, overriding the recommendation of Vargason, who had asked for a 20-year sentence.
“Certainly, when a judge sentences, he appreciates having all the information that is available concerning a defendant,” Corning said. “He submitted a brief in behalf of Michelle Davis, and I think the guy is pretty good at what he does.”
More often than not, Luciani plays a role in getting some level of leniency for his clients at sentencing.
Saying he loves his work, Luciani will continue advocating for those charged with serious crimes, despite the occasional lumps he takes on the job.
“It can be overwhelming at times, especially when you have a district attorney battling you or the victim's family looking at you like you're from Mars,” he said.
“You know, awful things happen to people for whatever reason, and if they were in this position or their family was in this position, wouldn't they want the same kind of advocacy? Wouldn't they want their story told?”
Richard Luciani — New York Sentencing & Parole Advocacy — firstname.lastname@example.org — 315-243-9211