Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pa Supreme Court grants juvenile lifer new sentencing

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the resentencing of a Pennsylvania man who is serving a life in prison without the possibility of parole for a murder he committed when he was 14, reported The Harrisburg Patriot-News.

The high court's decision doesn't guarantee that Qu'eed Batts won't again be sentenced to life in prison without parole when he is resentenced in Northampton County. But it could result in Batts receiving a sentence that would some day allow him to be free.

The Supreme Court decision in the Batts case reflects an array of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that curb the most serious penalties from being imposed on juveniles who commit murder. A change in state law also influenced the outcome of Batts' appeal.

The state's highest court decided to hear Batts' appeal after the state Superior Court upheld his life without parole penalty.

Like several other states, Pennsylvania's Legislature reacted to that U.S. Supreme Court's ruling by adopting a new law that removes mandatory life sentencing for killers who are minors.

That law, enacted in October, still permits the imposition of life without parole sentences on young murderers, but requires judges to consider several factors, including the killer's maturity, criminal sophistication and likelihood for rehabilitation, before deciding on a penalty.

Alternative sentences of 25 years to life in prison are allowed for killers who were under 15 when they committed their crimes. Those who were 15 to 18 when they killed can be subjected to alternate prison sentences of 35 years to life under the new statute.

That law applies automatically only to killers who were convicted since the U.S. Supreme Court's June 2012 ruling, however.

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