CHICAGO (CBS) — The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled prison inmates serving life sentences for murders they committed as juveniles will be allowed new sentencing hearings.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports about 100 convicted killers will now have another shot at being set free one day, thanks to Thursday’s ruling. Some were as young as 14 when they committed their crimes.
All were under the age of 18 at the time, and some were accomplices who weren’t directly involved in killing the victim in their case, but they all received mandatory life sentences. Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled mandatory life sentences for juvenile defendants was cruel and unusual punishment, and judges should have some discretion based on the circumstances of individual cases.
Matt Jones, with the Illinois State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor’s office said hundreds of victims, family members, and witnesses believed the perpetrators were put away for life.
“They were assured of that, and we’ve been working with the victims’ community … since the original petition came out in the Supreme Court level, and preparing them for all of the eventualities here,” he said. “They will be hurt and shocked, but they won’t be necessarily surprised.”
He said the appellate prosecutors’ office’s task now is to work with those same victims’ families to make sure they get due process when the affected inmates seek new sentences.
The convicts will be allowed to argue their age at the time they committed their crimes was a mitigating factor that should allow some leniency in their sentence, and possibly give them a chance at parole.