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Life sentence for Louisiana man convicted for juvenile crime found to be unconstitutional

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore

Life sentence for Louisiana man convicted for juvenile crime found to be unconstitutional


A 22-year-old Baton Rouge man sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when he was a juvenile will now have a chance to get out of prison after the Louisiana Supreme Court held that his sentence is unconstitutional.

Thayer Green was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole after he was arrested in 2012 for battery and home invasion of a residence where the mother of his child lived. He had previously been convicted of simple burglary and simple robbery. East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore successfully sought a life sentence on the home invasion charge under the state’s habitual offender statute.

On appeal, Green’s counsel argued that his life sentence conflicted with Graham v. Florida, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case which found that juvenile offenders could not be sentenced to life without parole for non-homicide offenses. In that decision, as well as subsequent rulings addressing juvenile sentencing, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted how “developments in psychology and brain science continue to show fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds.”

Prosecutors argued that Graham didn’t apply because Green had committed multiple offenses before being convicted and sentenced for this crime. But the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected that argument.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Graham was founded on the notion that juvenile non-homicide offenders, because of their youth and greater capacity for reform, are significantly less culpable than adults who have committed the same or worse offenses, and therefore deserve different treatment at sentencing,” the Louisiana Supreme Court said in its ruling. The Court also questioned the use of prior juvenile convictions to be used to enhance Green’s sentence.

The Louisiana Supreme Court agreed that Graham prohibited a determination to be made that someone like Green, who was a juvenile at the time of the offense, “will never be fit to rejoin society.” Following the holding in Graham, the Court held that Louisiana “must give such an offender a ‘meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.’” Accordingly, the Court ordered the Louisiana Department of Corrections to remove the restriction on Green’s parole eligibility.

The justices also sent Green’s case back to state District Judge Chip Moore for a hearing on whether the trial court’s initial decision to impose consecutive sentences constituted “excessive punishment” under Louisiana law.

Mike Mitchell, East Baton Rouge Parish’s chief public defender, said he would seek to show that Green is capable of rehabilitation and should have a chance at release.


Thanks to Josie Duffy Rice.

Life sentence for Louisiana man convicted for juvenile crime found to be unconstitutional

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore

Life sentence for Louisiana man convicted for juvenile crime found to be unconstitutional


A 22-year-old Baton Rouge man sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when he was a juvenile will now have a chance to get out of prison after the Louisiana Supreme Court held that his sentence is unconstitutional.

Thayer Green was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole after he was arrested in 2012 for battery and home invasion of a residence where the mother of his child lived. He had previously been convicted of simple burglary and simple robbery. East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore successfully sought a life sentence on the home invasion charge under the state’s habitual offender statute.

On appeal, Green’s counsel argued that his life sentence conflicted with Graham v. Florida, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case which found that juvenile offenders could not be sentenced to life without parole for non-homicide offenses. In that decision, as well as subsequent rulings addressing juvenile sentencing, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted how “developments in psychology and brain science continue to show fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds.”

Prosecutors argued that Graham didn’t apply because Green had committed multiple offenses before being convicted and sentenced for this crime. But the Louisiana Supreme Court rejected that argument.

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Graham was founded on the notion that juvenile non-homicide offenders, because of their youth and greater capacity for reform, are significantly less culpable than adults who have committed the same or worse offenses, and therefore deserve different treatment at sentencing,” the Louisiana Supreme Court said in its ruling. The Court also questioned the use of prior juvenile convictions to be used to enhance Green’s sentence.

The Louisiana Supreme Court agreed that Graham prohibited a determination to be made that someone like Green, who was a juvenile at the time of the offense, “will never be fit to rejoin society.” Following the holding in Graham, the Court held that Louisiana “must give such an offender a ‘meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.’” Accordingly, the Court ordered the Louisiana Department of Corrections to remove the restriction on Green’s parole eligibility.

The justices also sent Green’s case back to state District Judge Chip Moore for a hearing on whether the trial court’s initial decision to impose consecutive sentences constituted “excessive punishment” under Louisiana law.

Mike Mitchell, East Baton Rouge Parish’s chief public defender, said he would seek to show that Green is capable of rehabilitation and should have a chance at release.


Thanks to Josie Duffy Rice.

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Florida death row inmate becomes the state’s 27th exoneree

Florida death row inmate becomes the state’s 27th exoneree


The Florida Supreme Court ruled that a man sentenced to death must be acquitted because there was insufficient evidence to convict him.

Ralph Wright Jr., a former Air Force airman, becomes the 27th death row inmate in Florida to be exonerated. Wright was exonerated for the 2007 murder of his girlfriend and their baby son in St. Petersburg.

State Attorney Bernie McCabe’s office prosecuted Wright, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2013. On direct appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, the justices found that the evidence against Wright was not sufficient to justify his convictions.

“Although the facts established at trial support a strong suspicion of guilt, they are not inconsistent with innocence,” the Court held in a unanimous ruling. “We therefore conclude that the evidence is insufficient to sustain Wright’s convictions. Accordingly, we reverse the convictions, vacate the sentences of death, and remand with directions to enter judgments of acquittal.”

The prosecution’s theory was that Wright was the only person with a motive to commit the crimes. Yet as the Court stressed in its opinion:

There is no fingerprint, footprint, blood, fiber, pattern impression, or other physical evidence tying Wright to the crime scene. There is no cell tower evidence placing him in the vicinity of the crime scene. There are no inculpatory statements. There is no murder weapon. The only evidence presented by the State to prove that Wright was the murderer is the fact that he had motive and opportunity. But while motive and opportunity might create a suspicion that Wright committed the murders, even deep suspicions are not sufficient to sustain the convictions.

Floridians For Alternatives to the Death Penalty say this ruling shows that the death penalty doesn’t work.

“Wright’s release today highlights the serious and tragic flaws in Florida’s death penalty system as Florida continues to have by far the nation’s highest number of exonerations of wrongfully convicted people on death row,” the organization said in a statement.

The ruling is also a blow for McCabe, the long time chief elected prosecutor in Pinellas and Pasco counties who has a history of excessive prosecutions.

McCabe once garnered national and international attention when he prosecuted a teenage girl for murder after she shot herself while pregnant in a suicide attempt and the fetus died. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that McCabe could not prosecute the teenager, rejecting what it called the prosecution‘s efforts to “mak[e]…social policy” by seeking to “pit woman against fetus in criminal court.”

McCabe also vocally defended a Florida law that allowed people to be sentenced to death with only seven of 12 jurors supporting execution. That law was later found to be unconstitutional by the U.S Supreme Court in Hurst v. Florida, a decision that placed approximately 300 death sentences in Florida in legal limbo.


Thanks to Jake Sussman.

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