Joseph Fecht, who pled guilty for killing his wife, Amy, in front of their then-13-year-old daughter in 2003, then subsequently argued for his sentence to be reviewed, received a lesser sentence from Judge Robert VanDeHey Thursday, the same man who gave him his initial sentence.
But the reduction was slight - going from 50 years, with 30 spent in prison, to 45 with 27.5 years in prison.
"While I did credit him for accepting a plea at the time of the original sentence, I was under the belief that he really was not doing so out of concern for his family or Amy's family as the plea appeared to put him in the same place he would have been had he gone to trial and won," VanDeHey said in his judgement at the hearing.
VanDeHey said that what he had not heard when he had initially sentenced Fecht was an evaluation by Dr. Paul Hamilton that could have supported a not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect plea that Fecht had initially submitted to the court, then withdrew when examinations by two other psychiatric doctors did not support the plea. VanDeHey said that the evaluation could have given Fecht an argument, however slight, on a mental defect, a chance he gave up when he pled. VanDeHey stated that with the uncertainty of a trial, however suspect the defense, Fecht giving up the ability to argue that gave up a potential defense.
The judge hoped that allowing this review and modifying the sentence would end a case that has been in the courts for nine years, including a trip to Federal Court on a review of Fecht's ability of a direct appeal after a plea. "This ends today," VanDeHey said.
But VanDeHey did not change his thoughts about Fecht's act. "I said at the time you are probably the defendant that least deserved to see a day outside a prison cell," VanDeHey recalled. "And that is true today."
In the end, comparing the case to another recent domestic dispute that turned into a murder, VanDeHey shaved 2.5 years off Fecht's prison term and 2.5 years off his extended supervision. "I paraphrased Orson Wells at that sentencing to the extent that giving Mr. Fecht anything less than the maximum would be to show him more mercy than he showed Amy," the judge said, and noting society gives mercy even to vicious killers. "In the end, that's what you are Mr. Fecht, a vicious killer."
This is a developing report, Click back to SWNews4U.com later and to the PLatteville Journal and the Grant County Herald Independent the week of June 18 for details about this case.