Juvenile Justice Part 4 – A Delaware example of the US Supreme Court decision

Sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile is not legal anymore

A recent article in the Delaware News Journal profiles a man arrested in 1992 as a 17 year old juvenile sentenced to life in prison with no parole for putting a hit on someone to be killed (that was 26 years ago).

The US Supreme Court has since barred juveniles from receiving life sentences without parole back in 2010 and the law was retroactively applied in 2012 for guys like this who were charged before the new Supreme Court ruling.

During the re-sentencing hearing held as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, in April of 2014 his lawyer asked for the minimum possible sentence of 26 years, which could have resulted in his release in 2014 with credit for good behavior. However, the judge saw it differently and re-sentenced him to 35 years. That satisfies the Supreme Court ruling and replaces a life in prison sentence with the consolation of having only 13 more years of incarceration to serve on top of the 22 years already served.

The judge said he accepted the logic of the U.S. Supreme Court that minors lack the required maturity and crafted a sentence that will one day set this guy free. He also imposed 15 years of probation to be tagged on to his release.

The Delaware Board of Pardons will determine this week if he can have a public hearing for an early release sometime in the near future before his 35th year in prison – 2027. Some feel the re-sentencing of inmates who have already served decades under the life in prison sentence received as juveniles is not fair because it keeps many in jail for decades longer. If he serves his new full sentence he’ll be 52 years old when he’s released for a crime he committed at 17.

If he survives until then, it’s still better than being forced to spend the rest of his life in jail.