ALBUQUERQUE, NM – A man convicted of fatally shooting his parents and three siblings in New Mexico as a 15-year-old was sentenced Friday to life in prison with the possibility of parole in a case that has tested the limits of mental treatment for juvenile offenders.
Judge Alisa Hart sentenced 22-year-old Nehemiah Griego after his attorney sought a sentence that would have let him continue treatment while on probation.
Hart, however, previously determined that Griego was not amenable to treatment as a juvenile.
She reiterated Friday that probation was not an option because it would have placed the community at an "unacceptable level" of potential risk of violence if Griego were to leave treatment.
She said his case had exposed the limits of the legal system for youthful offenders who have shown some progress in treatment by the state yet not enough to be safely released back into society by age 21.
"What is needed to balance both what is best for the community and what is best for (Griego) does not currently exist as a resource for the court to consider today," she wrote.
Defense attorney Stephen Taylor called the decision "unfortunate." He had argued over the years that Griego had endured abuse and malnourishment so severe as a child that he suffered brain damage.
"It didn't have to result this way," he said. "If we could only do better as a state in providing care for our children, we wouldn't' be in this place today."