LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court says a man sentenced to life in prison for a capital murder committed when he was a teenager deserves a new sentencing hearing.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court said sending juvenile offenders to prison forever was a cruel punishment. Arkansas legislators have since made such inmates eligible for parole after 30 years, but Derrick Harris says Arkansas justices had ruled in another case that penalties for Class Y felonies should apply: they’re as low as 10 years.
Justices ruled Thursday that the Legislature’s decision to make inmates eligible for parole after 30 years cannot be applied retroactively and ordered a new sentencing hearing for Harris, who was convicted in Drew County.
Two justices dissented. Justice Shawn Womack said Thursday’s decision “likely opened the prison doors.”