Iowa Governor Overrides Life-Without-Parole Sentences For 38 Convicted Juvenile Killers

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Photo: drewgstephens/Flickr

30-eight juvenile offenders in Iowa are reaping the rewards of the Supreme Court’s ruling that mandatory life sentences for minors are illegal.Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad recently commuted the life sentences of 38 young inmates, sentencing the juveniles to 60-year terms instead, The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reported Monday.

His commutation comes on the heels of a June Supreme Court ruling that stated mandatory life without parole punishments for juvenile offenders violate the Eighth Amendment’s bar on cruel and unusual punishment.

The 38 inmates in Iowa were convicted killers who committed their crimes before they were 18, The Lincoln Journal Star reported Monday. Under their new sentences, the young inmates won’t be eligible for parole until after 60 years.

“Justice is a balance and these commutations ensure that justice is balanced with punishment for those vicious crimes and taking into account public safety,” Branstad said in a statement, according to Law Blog. “First degree murder is an intentional and premeditated crime and those who are found guilty are dangerous and should be kept off the streets and out of our communities.”

However, Branstad’s move isn’t good enough for some of the state’s defence attorneys.

Attorney Gordon Allen told the Journal Star, a Nebraska paper, that Branstad’s commutation violates the spirit of the Supreme Court’s decision to curb life sentences for juveniles.

“I think it’s certainly questionable,” Allen told the Journal Star.

Allen represents Christine Lockheart, a woman convicted of stabbing to death a retired bus driver in 1985 whose case will be impacted by Branstad’s decision.

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