Judge Needs More Time to Decide Sentencing for Murder Defendant

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A DC Superior Court judge postponed a sentencing for a murder defendant after hearing from the victim’s family.

Steven Robinson is convicted of second-degree murder while armed in the shooting of 28-year-old Shanika Williams on July 12, 2020, on the 800 block of 19th Street, NE.

“I don’t know who the state works for, but, in this case, it was not for Shanika Williams,” a member of her family said. “It’s hurtful that our system is not working on behalf of Shanika.”

The plea deal includes an agreement between the prosecution and defense to seek a sentence of 10 to 12 years, according to court documents. Sentencing guidelines, however, recommend a minimum of 14 years, Judge Neal Kravitz said during the Nov. 4 hearing.

“Robinson took a plea of guilty very early on in this case,” defense attorney Matthew Davies said. “He has been living under very poor conditions at the jail and it was under these conditions that he plead guilty.”

The prosecutor said she agreed to the lesser sentence because, “Robinson has taken responsibility at the earliest time in this case.” She recommended a 12-year sentence, the maximum length of time outlined in the plea agreement, saying, “[Robinson] is 29 years old. He has the ability to use his words. He has the ability to walk away.” She also said he has never completed probation successfully.

“[Williams] would always make us laugh,” her mother said. “She loved her children dearly. She did anything for her kids… I think [Robinson] deserves life.”

“Although the maximum sentence for second-degree murder while armed is 40 years, the parties agreed 10 to 12 years is the appropriate range,” Judge Kravitz said. “I can either accept the plea agreement and am required to give a sentence within 10 to 12 years, or I can reject the plea deal which would result in the case going to trial and the children would have to testify.”

Judge Kravitz said he believed the prosecution wanted to “avoid making [the children] relive the trauma.” After hearing from judge Kravitz, the victim’s mother said she did not want her grandchildren to have to testify in court.

After from Judge Kravitz, the victim’s mother said she did not want her grandchildren to have to testify in court.

“I don’t have faith in our justice system,” another member of William’s family said. “My nieces and nephew have already experienced the worst of the worst so what more is a trial?”

“Trials are inherently adversarial,” the prosecutor said. “There is no guarantee in the outcome… no matter how strong evidence may be.”

The prosecutor also said no sentence will compensate the loss of life.

Judge Kravitz said, “It’s extremely important to hear from the people in the community who are most affected [by the crime].”

“I’m not ready to decide whether or not to accept the plea agreement,” he went on to say.

Another sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 9. 

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