Does a Trial Court's Use of Mechanical Sentencing Policy Amount to An Abdication of Judicial Responsibility ?

In Cottingham v. State, 206 Ga. App. 197, 199 (3) (424 S.E.2d 794) (1992), the Court held: "A trial court's use of a mechanical sentencing formula or policy as to any portion of a sentence amounts to a refusal to exercise its discretion and therefore is an abdication of judicial responsibility." The court's statement indicates that it had a mechanical policy of refusing to consider first offender status for those who chose to go to trial. See, e.g., id. at 198-199 (3); Jones v. State, 208 Ga. App. 472, 473 (431 S.E.2d 136) (1993). "The legislature has specifically provided first offender treatment as a sentencing option in felony cases to be applied at the trial court's discretion. O.C.G.A. 42-8-60;" Jones, 208 Ga. App. at 473. And, that Code section applies to sentencing after both pleas and verdicts. O.C.G.A. 42-8-60 (a). the trial court's refusal to consider first offender status after a verdict is a refusal to exercise discretion. Cf. Jones, 208 Ga. App. at 473. "The judgment of sentence is vacated, and the case remanded for resentencing with direction that the new sentence not exceed the sentence previously imposed, and the request for first offender status be heard and considered on its merits." Id.