Iowa governor commutes youthful lifers | Arkansas Blog

Iowa governor commutes youthful lifers



COMMUTES 38: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.
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  • COMMUTES 38: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.
Because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has commuted the life sentences of 38 people sentenced as juveniles to life without parole sentences for murder. He commuted their punishment to 60-year terms.

I wrote about this Supreme Court ruling last month. It covered Kuntrell Jackson, sentenced to life without parole in a Blytheville robbery that ended in murder.

There are 57 Arkansas convicts serving life without parole sentences for murders committed as juveniles. Thirteen more people are serving life-without sentences for non-capital crimes.

At last report, it wasn't clear if the state could or would move to give the 70 inmates a sentence of a term of years, or hold a full re-sentencings, complete with mitigating evidence, in each case.

Proceedings are underway around the country to seek new sentencing for those affected by the latest ruling and an earlier one similarly prohibiting life-without sentences for juveniles convicted of non-capital crimes. Iowa's governor said he acted on the inmates as a group for a reason — to ensure no parole until those convicted have served 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,” Gov. Branstad said in a statement. “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.”

Similar reasoning in Arkansas — if implemented — would make the youngest of those currently serving life without eligible for parole at age 74. The life sentences date back as early as 1974, 38 years ago.

Prompted by this Iowa development, I've asked Gov. Mike Beebe's office if he's considered any uniform policy relative to the youthful lifers. The office response, from Matt DeCample:

Generally, when courts rule on prison sentences, the prosecutors take the lead on re-sentencing proceedings and coordinate with the AG’s office. Governor Beebe does not plan to take any unilateral action similar to what we’ve seen in Iowa.

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