Juvenile Justice

Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Life Sentence for Defendant, 14

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A life sentence without the possibility of parole is appropriate for a defendant who was 14 when the alleged murder took place, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled today.

Omer Ninham allegedly helped throw another boy, Zong Vang, off a parking ramp in 1998, the Associated Press reports. Ninham and four other children between the ages of 13 and 14 approached Vang, took his bike, and beat him, according to the opinion.

The opinion (PDF) acknowledged that the sentence was severe, but noted that the crime was senseless and “cannot be adequately reduced to words.”

Bryan Stevenson, Ninham’s lawyer, said that he would be filing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports that Ninham’s case has been watched closely, after the U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that a life sentence without parole is unconstitutional for juveniles who commit crimes short of murder.

“I absolutely believe that it’s just a matter of time before states are going to have to re-evaluate the judgment that you can punish (youthful offenders) the same way you can punish an adult,” Stevenson told the Associated Press. “Even when children commit very serious crimes, like the crime in this case, we have to think about that crime differently.”

Related articles:

ABAJournal.com: “Lawyers for Juvenile Lifers Convicted of Murder Urge Supreme Court to Overturn Sentences”

ABAJournal.com: “Courts ‘Flooded with Appeals’ After Supreme Court Decision on Juvenile Life Sentences”

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