MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Some Minnesota murderers will likely have their sentences thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that juveniles cannot be sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole.
The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that imposing a mandatory life sentence on juveniles violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
There are currently seven inmates in Minnesota prisons who were sentenced to life without parole for murders they committed while they were teens, ages ranging from 15-17.
One of the Minnesota cases that will be up for review is that Mahdi Hassan Ali, now 19, who was convicted of killing three people at a Minneapolis convenience store in January 2010, when he was 17.
On chilling surveillance video from the Seward Market, Ali can be seen shooting and killing three men. Ali was convicted and sentenced to a mandatory sentence of life without parole.
At the time, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill told Ali, “I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that you will be spending the rest of your life in prison.”
Fred Goetz, Ali’s defense attorney, argued at the trial that the mandatory life sentence was a cruel and unusual punishment. Now his argument has been vindicated by the highest court in the nation.
“I think the Supreme Court got it absolutely right,” he said. “You have to consider the individual circumstances of the case, the juvenile’s age, their environment, the nature of the crime.”
David Brown, a senior attorney for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, said the Supreme Court ruling will be difficult to stomach for victim’s families.
“They’re all thinking that these cases were complete, and now they have to go back through the trauma of potential sentencing hearings,” he said.
At the Seward Market Tuesday, men who said they were friends and relatives of Ali’s victims were not pleased by the Supreme Court ruling. They said Ali’s life sentence was fair. The men did not want to give their names.
Ali and other convicted murderers could now be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, which means they could get out after 30 years. But prosecutors stress no parole sentences can still happen.
“The Supreme Court didn’t eliminate the possibility of life without parole sentences,” Brown said. “What they said is that it cannot be automatic.”
For the names of the seven convicted Minnesota murderers who may be affected by the ruling, click here.