CHICAGO (CBS) — The man who admitted to killing a Julian High School honor student on a crowded CTA bus in 2007 will receive a new sentence on Tuesday, after his original prison term was overturned when a court deemed the judge’s comments inappropriate.
Michael Pace, now 27, was sentenced to 100 years in prison in 2009 after he pleaded guilty to the murder of 16-year-old Blair Holt. Pace opened fire on a CTA bus on May 10, 2007, gunning for a gang rival, and Blair was shot as he shielded a friend from the gunfire.
At Pace’s sentencing, Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford vented his frustration with gun violence in Chicago, and with the use of 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.
Pace appealed his sentence, and an Illinois Appellate Court panel ruled Ford improperly expressed personal views, and ordered a new judge set a new sentence.
Last month, Cook County Judge Matthew Coghlan held a new sentencing hearing for Pace.
On the witness stand, Blair’s father, Chicago Police Cmdr. Ronald Holt, 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,” he said.
Blair’s mother, Annette Nance-Holt, a a deputy district chief with the Chicago Fire Department, told reporters she believes the original sentence was fair, and she lashed out at a system that she said coddles criminals.
“Don’t think we should be here again today,” she said. “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?”
Coghlan was expected to announce Pace’s new sentence on Tuesday. Pace faces 32 to 100 years in prison.