CHICAGO (CBS) — After an appeals court threw out his original 100-year prison term, the man who admitted to killing a Julian High School honor student on a CTA bus in 2007 was set to make his case for a more lenient sentence on Wednesday.
Michael Pace, 27, already has spent several years behind bars after pleading guilty to the murder of 16-year-old Blair Holt, who was killed when he shielded a friend from gunfire as Pace opened fire on a CTA bus on May 10, 2007.
Pace was gunning for a rival gang member, but shot Holt instead. Five other people on the bus were wounded.
Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford sentenced Pace to 100 years in prison in 2009, but an Illinois Appellate Court panel threw out that sentence in 2015, ruling the judge “considered much more than just the facts of the case and the mitigating and aggravating factors.”
Holt’s parents said they believe the original sentence was justified. They planned to be in court for Pace’s resentencing, because they want to be there for their son.
“Don’t think we should be here again today,” Holt’s mother, Annette Nance-Holt, said outside court Wednesday morning. “It doesn’t make sense that criminals have more rights than victims. I just, I don’t understand it. I don’t think it’s fair, and what Judge Ford said originally in his sentencing, I thought nothing was harmful about what he said. It was the facts, and it was the truth. Why do we coddle criminals in this society?”
In his statement victim impact statement, Blair’s father, a Chicago Police officer himself, ripped Pace for appealing his initial 100-year prison sentence.
“Michael, I am not the type of man who turns the other cheek and allows someone to hit me again. In other words, we should not be here for a second time in ten years to bear witness to your claim of some level of innocence. Being here is a re-visit to the wound of death that never heels. Young man, accept your guilt.”
The appeals court ruled Ford improperly expressed personal views about the problem of gun violence in Chicago, and his frustration with expert testimony about Pace’s low IQ and learning disability as the defense sought leniency. Ford had discounted a psychologist’s testimony as a “copout,” and a disservice to those with mental disabilities who never commit a crime.
In ordering a new sentencing hearing for Pace, the appeals court also ordered a new judge to hear arguments in the case.
The next court date is Jan. 9. Pace faces a sentence of 32 to 100 years in prison.