Posner Speaks Up for Convict Who Killed at 16

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By Jessica DaSilva

A double-murderer serving 55 years will not get a new sentencing hearing, despite a Supreme Court ruling requiring as much for those locked up for life without parole while they were juveniles, the Seventh Circuit said ( Kelly v. Brown, 7th Cir., No. 17-1244, 3/16/17 ).

McKinley Kelly will be eligible for parole at 70, meaning the sentence did not qualify for a new hearing, the court ruled. It said he “was afforded all he was entitled to under” the law.

The decision elicited a blistering dissent from Judge Richard Posner, who said Kelly, 16 at the time of the killings in 1996, was effectively serving a life sentence—two consecutive 55-year terms.

Posner cited statistics showing juveniles sentenced to life only live to about 50, and he noted a Justice Department study showing a high percentage of serious juvenile offenders who wound up in court didn’t commit new crimes once they became adults.

“Instead, they grew up,” he said.

While the murders “proved tragic for everyone involved, including Kelly,” Posner said the court record showed the killings were not planned and he appeared to be a “typical” juvenile offender.

He said the Seventh Circuit should allow Kelly to pursue his claim that his sentence was unconstitutional, and let the district court conduct a hearing on whether “he is or is not incorrigible.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jessica DaSilva in Washington at jdasilva@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bna.com

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