Man sentenced to life for rape seeks new trial

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

COLUMBIANA – A 29-year-old Uniontown, Tennessee, man who was sentenced to life in prison in June for raping a victim in Alabaster in 2014 has requested a new trial, claiming the sentence violated his Eighth Amendment and 14th Amendment rights.

Spain

In late June, attorneys for Matthew Zachary Spain filed a request for a new trial and a request to reduce or vacate Spain’s life prison sentence.

Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Bill Bostick sentenced Spain to life in prison on June 21, a few weeks after Spain was found guilty by a jury on one felony count of first-degree rape. The jury returned a not guilty verdict on a felony domestic violence charge against Spain, and an unlawful imprisonment charge was dropped through a plea agreement.

Spain previously listed an address on Windsor Court in Alabaster, but now lists an address on Coopertown Road in Unionville, Tennessee.

The Alabaster Police Department arrested Spain on Nov. 8, 2014, and charged him with felony counts of first-degree rape and domestic violence by strangulation or suffocation and a misdemeanor second-degree unlawful imprisonment charge. He was indicted on the charges in June 2015, according to court records.

According to his arrest warrants, Spain’s charges stemmed from a Nov. 7, 2014, incident in which he did “engage in sexual intercourse with (the victim) by forcible compulsion,” according to his warrants.

In the request for a new trial, Spain’s attorneys claimed his “verdict and sentence are contrary to law” and “contrary to the facts,” and claimed “there was insufficient evidence presented to warrant a conviction for rape in the first degree.”

In the request to vacate Spain’s life sentence, his attorneys also claimed the sentence violated Spain’s constitutional rights.

“The sentence imposed by this court is the maximum sentence, and clearly is a violation of your defendant’s Eighth Amendment Right against cruel and unusual punishment as stated in the United States Constitution,” read the request. “The sentence imposed by this court is grossly disproportionate to the similar sentences in this circuit.”

“The facts in this case do not warrant a maximum sentence for a 26-year-old young man with no prior convictions and where the victim was not without fault,” read the request.

Bostick held a hearing to consider Spain’s motions on July 17. As of July 18, Bostick had not yet entered a ruling on the requests.