Rene Lima-Marin is back in a Colorado correctional facility after serving a decade in prison for robbing two video stores with an unloaded shotgun gun. At the time of his crime, Lima-Marin was just 19-years-old and headed down the wrong path, but unlike many ex-felons who return to prison for committing another crime, Lima-Marin turned his life around, got married, had children, and bought a house. Now, he faces an impossible 98-year sentence all because of an error.
In April 2008, Lima-Marin was released from prison after being convicted of eight charges stemming from his robberies. Although he normally would have been sentenced to anywhere from four to 16 years, he was aggressively prosecuted under a now-defunct Colorado policy. Although no one was hurt in either incident, Lima-Marin was given 98 years in prison.
“Ninety-eight years for what? You know, for what?” he told local reporters.
“People have raped, molested kids, taken lives and had 15, 20, 25 years,” Lima-Marin said. “And I made a mistake and tried to steal some money, and I am given my entire life in prison?”
He added: “I acknowledge the fact that I did something wrong. I take responsibility for the fact that I did something wrong. But I also believe I completed the punishment.”
After serving a decade in prison as a model inmate, Lima-Marin’s appeal lawyer said his sentenced had been reduced.
“She came to visit me, said you no longer have 98 years, you basically are given 16 years, which is what we were fighting for anyway,” he explained.
Unfortunately, his attorney was wrong; so were the documents filed with the court.
Before being sent back to prison in January, Lima-Marin had it all: a wife and two beautiful children, something that wouldn’t have been possible had he spent his life languishing in jail.
“I would have never had a wife. I would have never had children. I would have never bought a house. I would have never done any of those things,” Lima-Marin said. “But I did those because you let me out. And now they are being punished for something they had absolutely nothing to do with.”
While Lima-Marin takes responsibility for his past crimes, he wants to make it clear he has turned his life around and has paid his debt to society.
“I want people to see, is that I’m not that guy,” he said. “I don’t deserve 98 years. I deserve the time that I did.”
Some are calling on Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper to commute Lima-Marin’s sentence and set him free. If Gov. Hickenlooper does not act, Lima-Marin will be eligible for parole in 2054, when he’s 75.
Lima-Marin’s family started a petition to help pressure Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, Arapahoe County Chief Judge William Blair Sylvester, and Colorado Appeals Chief Judge Alan Loeb to release him from prison. So far, it has more than 23,000 signatures.
Learn more or sign the petition here.