In a 2012 Mesa County drug case, Jerod Wade was found guilty of multiple drug distribution-related charges and, under habitual criminal statutes, was sentenced to 64 years in prison.
After a review from the Colorado Supreme Court, requested by Wade, the Colorado Court of Appeals announced Thursday that while part of the conviction will be upheld, the sentence will be reviewed to determine if it was disproportionate.
This is the second time the Court of Appeals reviewed this case.
In 2016, the court vacated Wade’s convictions for distribution and possession of methamphetamine, but otherwise affirmed his conviction and sentence.
Wade then petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court on the proportionality of his sentence. The Supreme Court granted the review and ruled that the case would be sent back to the Colorado Court of Appeals in light of the court’s ruling in a 2019 case, People v. Wells-Yates.
In that case, the defendant received a 72-year sentence on burglary, drug distribution and habitual criminal convictions. The Colorado Supreme Court addressed some concerns as to how the sentence was determined and sent the case back to the trial court to conduct a new proportionality review.
In both cases, proportionality reviews were conducted by the respective trial, and both determined the sentences to be fair.
An extended proportionality review requires the court to compare the defendant’s sentence to sentences for other crimes in the same jurisdiction and sentences for the same crime in other jurisdictions.
The Eighth Amendment of the U.S Constitution prohibits any sentence grossly disproportionate to the severity of a defendant’s crime. To ensure a sentence is not grossly disproportionate, the court compares the gravity or seriousness of the offenses to the harshness of the penalty imposed.
At trial, Wade was found guilty of distribution of a controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, possession of methamphetamine, possession of a schedule I controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.
He was found to be a habitual offender and sentenced to concurrent sentences of 64 years for distribution, 64 years for possession with intent to distribute, 24 years for methamphetamine possession and six years for possession of a controlled substance.
After the trial, the court conducted an abbreviated proportionality review of Wade’s sentence and concluded that it was not grossly disproportionate.
In his appeal, Wade argued habitual criminal statutes were unconstitutional, the methamphetamine conviction must merge with the possession with intent to distribute conviction, the court erroneously determined his sentence was not grossly disproportionate, among other claims.
Wade’s sentence included habitual criminal conviction based on multiple convictions, including three in New Jersey and two in Mesa County.
During the trial, Wade urged the court to consider recent amendments to drug crime statutes nationally.
The trial court ruled that the distribution charges were grave and serious as were his previous convictions, and thus imposed the statutorily prescribed 64-year habitual sentence.
The trial court will review the case again to determine if Wade’s sentence was disproportionate to the crime.
“Wade is entitled to a new proportionality review consistent with Wells-Yates,” the Colorado Court of Appeals said in its decision.
The court ruled that the trial court is uniquely suited to make factual determinations in this case and thus should conduct the proportionality review.
Wade’s convictions of distribution of a controlled substance and possession of methamphetamine were vacated and, while his other convictions were affirmed, the case was remanded to the trial court to review his sentence.