MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A boy who was 14 when he helped throw another boy off a parking ramp to his death was properly sentenced to life in prison without parole, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Omer Ninham’s lawyers argued that the sentence violated the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment given Ninham’s age when the crime was committed. State attorneys countered that nothing prevents such a sentence for juveniles in homicide cases.

The Supreme Court found that sentencing a 14-year-old to life without parole in an intentional homicide case is permissible and not unduly harsh. The court acknowledged that Ninham’s punishment was severe, but said his crime was senseless and “cannot be adequately reduced to words.”

Ninham’s atorney, Bryan Stevenson, vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I absolutely believe that it’s just a matter of time before states are going to have to re-evaluate the judgment that you can punish (youthful offenders) the same way you can punish an adult,” Stevenson said. “Even when children commit very serious crimes, like the crime in this case, we have to think about that crime differently.”

According to the court opinion, Zong Vang was riding his bike home in September 1998 in Green Bay when Ninham and four other kids, all between the ages of 13 and 14, approached him. They began to taunt him, then yanked his bike away and beat him.

Vang fled into a nearby hospital parking ramp. The others chased him to the top. Vang repeatedly asked why they were trying to hurt him and pleaded with them to leave him alone.

Ninham and another boy seized Vang by the wrists and ankles, swung him over the edge of the ramp and let go. Vang fell five stories to his death. Ninham turned to one of his friends and told him not to say anything, and they all fled.

While Ninham was awaiting trial, he threatened a judge’s life and threatened to rape and kill his friends because they had talked to police.

Judge John D. McKay handed down the life sentence in 2000, when Ninham was 16. The judge described him as a “frightening young man,” noting he still denied ever being at the scene.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (27)
  1. Poor baby, let him rot says:

    My guess is Zong Vang wouldn’t think the sentence was too harsh.

    Let him rot.

    1. Todd says:

      Though I am pretty liberal, I don’t want this kid on the street. He’s the reason we have prison, to keep the dangerous people off the street.

      Have to wonder what kind of house he was brought up in. 14 and you can do something that cruel? Scary world.

  2. pat says:

    Why do I have the feeling, that if that boy’s name had been John Smith, he would not have gotten such a harsh sentence.

    1. goodguy says:

      Pat – I think this fine young man should be released into your custody. He can babysit your children and look after your house. Personally, I think it is a relief that guy will never see the light of day.

    2. Paul says:

      I have to disagree with you Pat. The crime he committed was reprehensible, and I seriously doubt the judge and jury would have sentenced differently no matter what his name was.

    3. KR says:

      what’s so unusual about the name Ninham?

  3. mpls sux says:

    Good thought there Pat… you are likely correct!

  4. Jim says:

    I guess I don’t have a problem with a 14 year old murderer spending his life in prison. He did take away the life of another human his own age, after all. But why do we even have a different set of laws for juveniles in this country? It seems that anytime we want, we just disregard the guidelines for juveniles and sentence them as if they were adults. Doesn’t make sense to me.

  5. unreal says:

    When you don’t like something just cry “racist”. It’s the American way.

    1. Terry says:

      Exactly!!! thank you very much. This young guy is clearly sick and does not need to be let out.

      1. Mike says:

        He is clearly 14 years old and did something bad, but accidentally killing someone should not be a life sentence in prison. This kid had no idea that his actions would cause death.

        1. really says:

          How do you accidently throw someone off of a parking ramp?

        2. jojo says:

          He didn’t know throwing a person off of a roof five stories up would likely kill him? He then tried to cover it up. THEN threatened those who talked to the police. Not an isolated incident.

        3. Wake Up Mike says:

          Mmmm….no idea throwing another child FIVE STORIES off a parking ramp could cause dealth huh?

          Well then it is really good he is locked away for life. Because he is either a sick SOB or so stupid, his genes should be kept off street to prevent reporduction!!

          Wake Up Mike….the kid wasn’t 8 years old!!!

        4. Heidi says:

          Accidentally? What planet are you from.? It says they chased the boy and deliberately hung him over and dropped him off of a parking ramp. Do the laws of gravity not apply on your planet? I cannot believe you would even say such a thing. He is 14 years old. Kids are kids but they are not stupid and at that age. They well enough know what is right and wrong. If my child did something like that, they better well spend their life in prison. There is no excuse for taking someone’s life deliberately. We need to stop making excuses for everything. Ever wonder why there is an increase in juvenile crimes? It’s because we have laws and excuses for EVERYTHING for them and make up reasons why they should or should not have done something. You can’t even look at a kid the wrong way now-a-days without someone complaining you are visually abusing them with your facial expression. What a joke.

          1. Heidi says:

            Oh I forgot to add, maybe you should accidentally get thrown off a parking ramp by a group of kids the same age after they chase after you and then you could survive with multiple injuries and then come and say that it was just an accident. They didn’t know. Give me a break….WAKE UP!!! This world and laws are getting out of hand because of people like you who are dillusional about things like this or just don’t want to accept the fact that children can be messed up too, they don’t have to be an adult to make poor choices at that age.

        5. WHAT????? says:

          Since this was an “accident” we should have more to blame than this. How about the video games he played, the music he listened to, or maybe the media is to blame? That is 1 of the dumbest things I have ever heard in my life. If he did not know that a 5 story drop would kill you why did he not jump after the kid when he threw him over? I mean he chased him all the way to the top of the ramp just to let him get away like that? See, when you spell it out it makes no sense just like when you think it so how the he!! would you ever come to that conclusion? I agree with the other posts that stated that it is a good thing he is in prison for the rest of his life so he cannot start his brood of little stupid’s that would most likely be soon since he is 16 now.

  6. trl the alligator says:

    …i only hope that “”life” really means “LIFE” AND NOT JUST A 30 YEAR PRISON SENTENCE…….he deserves to spend THE ENTIRE duration of his wasted life in prison and i pray that he does………oh and his lawyer makes me sick.

    1. Good Ol Boy says:


      The very first sentence says “without the possibility of parole.”

  7. Michael Clark says:

    Were any of the other kids apprehended in this case, does anyone know?

  8. Gloria says:

    I believe the life sentence in this case is fair and just. It would seem this person knew exactly what he was doing, that it was wrong, and he doesn’t sound like anyone who could be rehabilitated. He would no doubt leave prison and continue his violent ways. (Just the fact that he made threats to a judge and his friends should tell you something.)

    I hope his life sentence without parole stands.

  9. Paul says:

    Michael, the other child who threw him off the parking ramp got life in prison, with possibility of parole in 50 years. As opposed to this man who will have no parole, ever.

  10. Jalynn says:

    Oh, stop with the offensive “racism” smear tactic, you leftie softies ! ! I totally agree that Pat should invite this sweet, unjustly treated “boy” to babysit his children or grandchildren. Pat, invite this “sweet, innocent, maligned, “little boy” to care for your dogs and cats while you’re on vacation ! ! ! ….that’s what I thought……

    1. WHAT????? says:

      Stop your offensive political accusations. Just because someone claims that this is not just does not mean they are “lefties” or liberals or Dems or Repubs or Independents or anything else. You are no better than the people you are yelling at when you tell people to stop judging while you judge them.

      1. Jointhesane says:

        Dear “WHAT?????” :I can assure you that only Lefty softies would consider a life sentence for a punk that threw a human being 5 stories to his death, UNJUST ! ! ! Throwing away the key on a punk who commits such a heinous crime is most definitely supported by “Repubs”. ….. and I am a proud “Repub”. Have a nice day 🙂

  11. I was a kid once says:

    It is a sad story. When I was that age my actions were nowhere near what this kid did yet I did do things that are not acceptable. As I grew older I realized the seriousness of what I did. Today I look back at my preteen years and wonder how I found my way out of the inner city. I wonder what in the heck was I thinking? The only thing I can come up with is that I was too young to know any better. I am very sorry this boy murdered another boy, it is a very sad story. My heart goes out to the family of the boy who was taken away from them by this murderer. Life in prison is one thing yet life without parole as if this boy will never become wiser as he gets older like myself is I think to harsh yet then again it was to harsh to throw somebody off a building to their death. I am torn on which way I feel about this. And a bit rattled that some of the comments here are so narrow minded and just as cold as this boy who threw the kid off the building.

  12. Heidi says:

    Some people are just pure evil, by nurture or nature. Nevertheless the main priority is to protect the society from these people.
    In Finland, where I come from, this boy would be a free man in no time at all, sad to say.

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