Serial Killer Wants Sentence Reduced to Life From 408 Years

By Tom Bacon

Spokane serial killer Robert Lee Yates is under a death sentence for two murders, and a sentence of 408 years in prison for 13 other brutal slayings. Yet he thinks he was unfairly treated when he agreed to the long prison term in Spokane, so he demanded a do-over on the plea bargain.

But the Washington State Supreme Court, with a lone exception, ruled - in essence - what possible difference could it make if Yates were sentenced to life in prison rather than 408 years. Eight of the high court justices held there was no practical effect resulting from a computation error in the Spokane trial court back in 2000 when Yates agreed to a deal to avoid the death sentence.

Yates argued that lesser prison terms on two counts of murder in the long list of charges against him would have made him eligible for parole on those two counts, so he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas on the eleven other murders.

The justices scoffed at his reasoning. They wrote: "Given the reality of the human life span, there is no difference between those two sentences." They continued, "he was fully informed of the consequences of his plea: there was no possibility that he would ever be released from prison, regardless of how long he lived."

The lone dissenter on the high court, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, argued there are practical differences between the 408-year sentence and the life sentence he should have gotten.

Yates was convicted of murdering at least 13 women in Spokane, most of them prostitutes. Although he escaped the death penalty here, a Pierce County jury later sentenced him to death for the murders of two other women.
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