LINCOLN — A man sentenced to death for the murder and dismemberment of his former girlfriend’s son lost his appeal for a reduced sentence on Friday.
The Nebraska Supreme Court rejected complaints brought by Raymond Mata that he was unconstitutionally sentenced to die for the slaying of 3-year-old Adam Gomez of Scottsbluff in 1999.
Portions of the boy’s body were found in a freezer and in a dog bowl at Mata’s home. There were also bone fragments found in the stomach of Mata’s dog.
Among the arguments raised by Mata, now 46, were that he should not have been shackled during jury selection prior to his murder trial, and that the 2015 repeal of the death penalty by the Nebraska Legislature, and then reinstatement of capital punishment by voters in 2016, caused him emotional distress and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
The court, in a 20-page ruling by Judge Jeffrey Funke, rejected his arguments.
Funke wrote that if the potential for a modification in a defendant’s sentence were sufficient to constitute cruel and unusual punishment, every time a change in sentences was contemplated by the Legislature, vetoed by the governor or subjected to a public debate, a defendant could file an appeal.
That, he wrote, would “open the door to a cruel and unusual (court) challenge following every case where an appeal of a conviction or sentence is granted .”