A young woman charged with manslaughter for killing her baby shortly after its birth was sentenced Thursday in Fifth Circuit Court to six months incarceration and 10 years probation.
Christine Robles, 22, of Koloa, took a plea offer and pleaded no contest to manslaughter this May, about a year after the offense.
Judge Clifford Nakea stated that he was prepared to hand down a one-year sentence, but acknowledged that upon hearing statements from Robles and her defense attorney Alfred Castillo, and seeing the more than 20 friends and family who showed up to support her, he decided to reduce her sentence from the maximum 20 years to one year imprisonment with probation.
Nakea finally decided upon the short KCCC term with probation.
Nakea said he struggled with rendering a sentence to reflect the severity of Robles’ crime, yet he felt Robles would likely never stand before him in court again.
“I suspect a jury would not have found you guilty,” he said. “There’s no question in my mind you were subject to a great deal of stress at the time of the incident.”
“Neonatacide (killing a newborn child within 24 hours of its birth) is unfortunately common in the United States,” Castillo said, “we see it in the media all the time.”
Castillo reviewed testimony from medical and psychiatric examiners. He said Robles’ loss of blood and head injuries sustained after she pounded her head against a wall after giving birth contributed to a “diminished mental capacity.”
Research of neonatacide cases found that Robles’ case mitigated criminal responsibility, Castillo told Judge Nakea.
Letters written to the court from a minister and Robles’ sister both showed that she expressed deep remorse for her actions, Castillo said.
A senior probation officer supported probation in lieu of incarceration, Castillo said. First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Craig De Costa disagreed.
“This is an innocent victim whose life was extinguished; in our society, that justifies some punishment,” De Costa said.
He noted that Robles did not seek prenatal care or admit to anyone she was pregnant.
The state requested that Judge Nakea hand down the maximum sentence for manslaughter, the charge Robles pleaded to in May. Manslaughter, a Class A felony, is punishable by a maximum of 20 years imprisonment.
Robles told Judge Nakea how sorry she was for everything she did to hurt herself, her family and the island of Kaua’i.
She was originally indicted for second-degree murder and arrested last May.
According to police and prosecutors’ records, she gave birth to a son at home last April, and without medical assistance, she put the child into a rice bag and dumped it in an trash can outside, where paramedics and fire fighters later found the body. The boy died of asphyxiation, according to an autopsy.
Robles was released on $10,000 bail and remained on supervised release. She was working at the Tip Top Cafe in Lihu’e. Robles was transported to KCCC Thursday afternoon, where she will serve six months minus a credit for time served, one hour and 45 minutes.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 252).