A 42-year-old man who killed a Denver Police Department officer in 1995 received a new sentence this week because of a change in how people convicted of murder as juveniles are punished.
Raymond Gone pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and in exchange the Denver District Attorney’s Office agreed to vacate charges of first-degree murder after deliberation and attempted aggravated motor vehicle theft, according to a Notice of Agreement filed Monday in Denver District Court. The agreement, first reported by the Denver Gazette, resulted in a 44-year prison sentence instead of Gone’s previous punishment of life in prison without parole.
Gone will receive credit for the almost 26 years he has spent behind bars, and he would be eligible for parole before completing the entire 44 years.
The Denver District Attorney’s Office agreed to the new sentence because Gone was 16 when he killed Officer Shawn Leinen. The district attorney’s office also recognized that Gone was raised in an unstable home where mental illness and addiction were present and noted that he has exhibited good behavior in prison where he continued his education and held a job, according the Notice of Agreement.
Gone shot and killed Leinen in February 1995 after the officer tried to question the teenager about a car theft. At the time, Gone was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court found that it is unconstitutional to sentence juveniles convicted of murder to automatic life without the possibility of parole. That decision affected 48 people in Colorado’s prisons who were serving life without parole for felony murder charges. Since then, district attorneys have renegotiated sentences or argued for new trials.
The Denver District Attorney’s Office wanted to avoid a new trial because it would have taken years to redo the case, Maro Casparian, a spokeswoman, said.
“It would have served no one well,” she said.
Although District Attorney Beth McCann and Gone’s defense attorney’s agreed on the 44-year sentence, Leinen’s family and friends rejected it.
Three people, including Leinen’s brother-in-law, submitted letters to the court, asking Judge Karen Brody for a stiffer penalty.
One letter writer recalled listening to Leinin’s final radio call where the officer begged, “Don’t do it, man!” Leinin was shot multiple times.
Leinin’s wife, Susan, was pregnant with their only child when was killed. She gave birth to their son, Maxwell, two months later.
“All the moments that Max’s dad should have been there, and he wasn’t,” Steven Laughrey, Maxwell’s uncle, wrote. “Never had the chance to meet him. When I look at Max, I see his father. He looks like Shawn. He acts like Shawn. I know they would have been best friends. No child should have to grow up without their father.”
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