|Emanuel Lee Yarbrough on the stand in Calhoun Co. Circuit Court in August|
Stephen Gross, The Anniston Star
By Kirsten Fiscus,
Star Staff Writer
A Calhoun County circuit judge Monday sentenced an Oxford man to life in prison without parole for the sexual abuse of a child younger than 6.
Emanuel Yarbrough, 34, was convicted in August of first-degree sodomy and first-degree sexual abuse of a relative. The minimum and maximum punishments for sexual abuse of a child younger than 6 is life without parole, according to Alabama law.
In Yarbrough’s last hearing, an expert witness called by Yarbrough’s attorneys, Jake Mathews and Alyssa Enzor, testified to other rehabilitative services Yarbrough could be sentenced to participate in.
Mathews and Enzor argued the life-without-parole sentence, imposed on a first offender, violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Mathews urged the court to look at the number of crimes being punished by life without parole, and pointed out that a large number of those are violent offenses.
“When you receive a life-without-parole sentence you’re saying in one sense they have no ability to be rehabilitated,” Mathews said. “When you contrast the people who are getting life-without-parole sentences they are violent offenders. People were killed in those cases.”
Is he suggesting that rape and sodomy of a child less than 6 years old is not violent?
The state’s prosecutor, Jayme Amberson, pointed out that the crime occurred behind closed doors and the court couldn’t know what “forces of coercion” Yarbrough may have used. Amberson argued Yarbrough used his status within the victim’s family to force his advances on the child.
“Just because he didn’t use a gun doesn’t mean that wasn’t a violent act,” Amberson said.
Arthur Ray Morris Jr., Yarbrough’s brother-in-law, testified during the hearing on behalf of the victim. Morris pleaded with the court to uphold the life-without-parole statute citing the multiple opportunities Yarbrough had to seek help.
“What about the child that won’t be able to grow up with a normal childhood,” Morris asked. “You can only bear so much in life. Perhaps counseling would be good for him, but why can’t he do that while he is in jail?”
During his opportunity to speak, Yarbrough apologized to his family, his church, and everyone he hurt in the process.
“I never got help and I should have,” Yarbrough said. “I would love to ask this court for mercy. My children need their father. They need their father to get help and to somehow be in their lives.”
They needed that before you started raping your child!
Judge Debra Jones sided with the law in Yarbrough’s sentencing stating that the Legislature creates the laws as the voice of the people and holds the right to create a classification of people, such as children, that need special protection.
Mathews and Enzor stated during the hearing that they would file a motion for a new trial and file for an appeal of the sentencing.