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Justices hear cases over life sentences for teens

Posted October 13, 2015

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— The nation’s highest court has been asked to decide whether men and women convicted of committing murder as teens have the right to a new sentence. A decision will impact hundreds of inmates across the country, including a number of cases in the Triangle area.

Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Tally—who spent years as a public defender—said the Supreme Court has reviewed research about juveniles as they get ready to make a decision about the case before them.

“Particularly the development of the brains of young people and how their brains and their ability to think through the consequences of their actions may often be much diminished of that of an older person,” Tally said.

Kevin Golfin was 16-years-old when he and his brother, Tilmon, gunned down a state trooper and Cumberland County sheriff's deputy on Interstate 95 in 1997.

Anthony Willis, 16, was sentenced to life without parole for the 1996 murder of a store owner on Ramsey Street in Fayetteville.

Fransico Tirado was also 16-years-old when he was part of a gang initiation murder that left two women dead and one severely wounded.

District Attorney Billy West said a life without parole sentence for youthful offenders is appropriate in cases with evidence that shows the murders are premeditated.

If the Supreme Court says its decision is retroactive, offenders like Golfin could ask for a new sentencing hearing. West says his office would fight to keep those offenders behind bars.

“That was the appropriate sentence,” West said. “It should be the sentence. That’s the one the victims though they were getting at the time the case was adjudicated, and we think that should remain in place.”


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