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Supreme Court ruling could reduce punishments in some Wake murder cases

Posted January 27

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— A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court could lead to dozens of convicted killers in North Carolina getting their sentences reviewed and possibly becoming eligible for parole.

In a 6-3 ruling Monday, the court made retroactive a 2012 decision that struck down automatic life terms with no chance of parole for people convicted of murder who were 17 or younger at the time of the crime.

According to the state Division of Adult Correction, 79 North Carolina inmates would be affected by the ruling. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Wednesday that about seven of them are from Wake County:

  • Ryan Patrick Hare was three days shy of his 18th birthday when he orchestrated the murder of Apex High School senior Matthew Silliman in November 2008.
  • Cameron Morris was 17 when he and two others killed retired teacher Shirley Newkirk outside her Raleigh home in April 2005.
  • Dwight McLean was 17 when he shot Raleigh utilities worker Robert Saiz during a December 2002 robbery.
  • Artis Perkins was 15 when he fatally shot Louis Santos in September 2000 as Santos was trying to break up a fight involving five women.
  • Johnny Beck was 17 when he shot Samuel Gregory in the back of the head at a friend's apartment in Raleigh in February 1995.
  • Ang Xanonh was 14 when he shot Ballard and Maxine Satterfield during a robbery of their Raleigh home in October 1994.
  • Devonte Perkinson

"We're looking at a handful of cases. This only applies to cases after 1994, so we're looking at a very specific time frame, a very specific set of defendants under 18 who were convicted of first-degree murder," Freeman said.

She said prosecutors in her office are meeting with Chief Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens to review the cases affected by the court ruling and will appoint attorneys for the inmates who don't already have legal representation so hearings can be held on their sentences.

Family members of murder victims have expressed anger and frustration over the prospect of shorter sentences for their relatives' killers.

"I'm not going to argue with anyone about the rights of these underage murderers," Kayla Pollak, whose grandmother was killed in Clayton in 2001 by 17-year-old Delmonte Jefferson, wrote in an email to WRAL News. "When is someone going to start talking about the rights of the victims?

"Is it not cruel and unusual punishment to force the victims to relive the trauma over and over again, which will undoubtedly happen during the many hearings and appeals my family and I are sure to be attending?" Pollak wrote.

"These victims' families were told at the time when these people were convicted and sentenced, were told that this sentence was life without parole. We've had a history of truth in sentencing in North Carolina," Freeman said. "It's very hard to go back to these victims' families and now tell them we're going to have to re-sentence these individuals."

Defense attorneys say the defendants were so young when they committed their crimes that they have the potential to be rehabilitated.

"They should be given the chance as they grow into adulthood to show what they can do and have some opportunity at release," defense attorney Joe Cheshire said. "It's only a human thing really. It's just the right thing to do."

For any inmate whose sentence is changed to life in prison with the possibility of parole, it would still be up to the state Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission to decide if and when the inmate would be released.

5 Comments

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  • Montel Burnette Jan 28, 2016
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    Yea sure, as if NC hasn't been fought to wrongly convict people of murder before.

  • David Bunn Jan 27, 2016
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    You are exactly right. Everybody makes mistakes. Roberts being the biggest one. A traitorous dog at best. I am sure there is a video of him doing something heinous, held by the hand that seems to hold his whip.

  • John Kaiser Jan 27, 2016
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    It is a 6-3 ruling. Anthony Kennedy and John Roberts (A Reagan and Bush appointee, respectively). So apparently it wasn't just the liberal justices who found merit in the arguments against automatic life sentences for juveniles.

  • Dale Hayden Jan 27, 2016
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    if you murder someone. you should be put to death right away.I don't care how old you are. and you should be killed the same way you killed someone

  • David Bunn Jan 27, 2016
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    This is what happens when you let people who are totally unqualified like Elena Kagan be appointed to the SCOTUS. Expect more of the same if a conservative is not elected and if the republicans do not keep the majorities in both houses. Age means nothing, the crimes do. Do the crime, pay the price!