Defendant Loses Bid to Appeal Life Sentence on 8th Amendment Grounds
This is a case from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals involving a 16-year-old defendant who was convicted of murder after an attempted robbery of a corner store.
On July 28th, 1994 the defendant was 16 years old and visiting an aunt in Decatur, Illinois. While there, he and his cousins conspired to rob a convenience store. The other parties to the robbery were 16 and 17 years old. One of the three was armed with a handgun and the defendant had picked up a brick that he found outside of the store. He rushed the owner and placed the brick behind his head while restraining him. He ordered the store owner to give him all of his money. The victim opened the register. One of the other defendants took the money from the register but was unable to remove the register tray, so he fired a shot into the register. The two left the store but then returned and ordered the victim to give them the key to his truck. The victim gave them a key, but it didn’t work, so they returned to the store. The defendant returned to the store with the other defendant who was armed with a handgun. The defendant with the handgun shot the victim in both arms.
10 days later, they were at it again. In this case, they were outside of a payphone when a car stopped nearby. They asked for a ride and the driver told them to get in. They then decided to rob the driver. When the victim stopped the car, the defendant and his accomplice ordered the men into the back seat. They later ordered the men out of the car and told them to lay down facedown on the ground with their hands behind their head. It was then that the defendant shot the victims in the back of the head. They then drove the vehicle to another location, doused it in gasoline and fled. On September 18th, the two were charged in another murder of a store clerk.
The 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution limits when a juvenile can be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In considering whether or not to sentence a juvenile to life, the court must consider various factors. The defendant was charged with numerous counts of first-degree murder. The defendant confessed to the killings to police when he was interrogated.
The defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to a life term in apparent violation of the 8th Amendment. However, the appellate court did not grant his appeal for reconsideration finding that his conduct was especially heinous and indicative of wanton cruelty. In most cases, it is unlawful to sentence a juvenile offender to life without the possibility of parole. But in rare cases, it can be done. In this case, the defendant’s bid to appeal his sentence was denied by the court.
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