Why can’t a judge immediately sentence someone to a mandatory sentence, usually life in prison or death, once the conviction is read? Why is there a need for a delay, which requires the sheriff or state Department of Corrections to haul the person back into court a month or two later?

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III and his chief of administration, Mark Dumaine, point out that all defendants have a statutory right to a sentence delay. The law does not allow the court to immediately sentence a defendant, unless the defendant has expressly waived these built-in delays. The defendant is the only one who can waive these delays.

The delays, according to the statutes, serve to allow time for the defendant to file immediate objections to a verdict of guilt. The delays also allow time for the court to obtain a pre-sentence report about the defendant’s history so that a judge has more information in developing a sentence.

While the pre-sentencing report would not appear necessary for mandatory life and death sentences, judges must often request them for many reasons. For example, in the case of a death penalty sentence, one such reason is that the trial judge is required to provide the Louisiana Supreme Court with a "Uniform Capital Sentencing Report" that must contain information on the defendant’s prior delinquent and criminal activity, family situation, background, education, economic and employment status.

Send questions to Ask The Advocate, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0588; or fax to Ask The Advocate, (225) 388-0297; or email asktheadvocate@theadvocate.com.