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Life without parole for teenage murderers banned by Iowa Supreme Court


This news story was published on May 29, 2016.
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Iowa Supreme Court

Iowa Supreme Court

DES MOINES – In a close vote, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled this week that teens who commit murder must someday get a chance at freedom.

The court reviewed the sentence of Isaiah Sweet, who was 17 years old when he murdered his grandparents. Sweet shot them in the head with a rifle. Court documents say he may have been in a troubled home and suffered some abuse. He was sentenced to life in prison who no possibility of parole.

Sweet contended to the court that life without the possibility of parole should be categorically banned for juvenile offenders under the Iowa Constitution.

In the 4-3 ruling, the court says that a sentence of life without a chance at parole is not constitutional under the Iowa Constitution. One reason is because like psychologists, judges cannot ascertain whether an offender can be rehabilitated or not, for certain.

Nothing in the court’s opinion suggests that a juvenile offender is entitled to parole. The State is not required to make such a guarantee, and those who over time show irredeemable corruption will spend their lives in prison, the court said. The determination of irredeemable corruption, however, must be made when the information is available to make that determination and not at a time when the juvenile character is a work in progress.

Sweet will be re-sentenced.

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