U.S. High Court Ruling Could Affect 100 Illinois Inmates

About 100 convicted Illinois murderers sentenced as teenagers to life without parole are assured of a review after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday.

The high court found its 2012 decree barring automatic life terms for young offenders also applies to past crimes, bolstering the same finding by the Illinois Supreme Court two years ago.

The case involves Henry Montgomery, imprisoned for more than half a century for the fatal shooting of a Louisiana sheriff's deputy in 1963 when he was 17. It solidifies the Illinois position on retroactivity, said Heidi Lambros, an assistant defender with the Office of the State Appellate Defender. She said Illinois resentencing hearings will proceed.

Lambros said the ruling even further restricts consideration of life sentences in such cases, proclaiming that allowing no chance of parole is unconstitutional if "transient immaturity" played a role.

"Now there's nothing to be said as far as these kids all deserve to be resentenced," Lambros said. "And to read the opinion, they all deserve to be resentenced to a period of time that would let them get out."

After the U.S. decision in 2012 limiting life-sentence imposition, the Illinois court determined in People v. Davis that it applied retroactively, allowing resentencing hearings for the 100 or so offenders. Two have already undergone resentencing, including the offender in the key case, Addolfo Davis. He was convicted of murder in 1990 for serving as a 14-year-old lookout during a gang-related shooting.

The Cook County Public Defender's office is working on scheduling hearings for about two dozen cases it's handling, chief of staff Lester Finkle said. Others have attorneys working pro bono, he said.

The Associated Press also asked the Illinois Department of Corrections for assistance in determining the Illinois impact of the U.S. court decision, but a spokeswoman said the AP would have to file a request under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act.

None of the Illinois cases is as old as Montgomery's, Lambros said, but some involve crimes that occurred as long as three decades ago.

The other convict who's been resentenced is Gerald Rice, convicted of murder in the arson death of several victims in 1986. He was resentenced to 60 years and was released after a 30-year term, accounting for day-for-day good time.

Davis' resentencing to life is on appeal, Lambros said. His youth at the time and level of involvement in the crime bode well given Monday's further restrictions on life sentences, she said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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