MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life without parole for murders they committed when they were teenagers are being resentenced to life with the possibility of release after 30 years.
The change comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that a ban on mandatory life without parole for juveniles should apply to those already serving such sentences. The ruling affected eight Minnesota inmates; seven were resentenced, and the eighth has his resentencing pending. It will be about nine years before the first offender is eligible to seek release.
The state is still wrestling with how to handle offenders who killed multiple victims as teenagers and are now serving more than one life sentence. The amount of years that must be served before parole varies greatly depending on whether multiple sentences are served consecutively or concurrently.
The state Supreme Court recently upheld three consecutive life sentences for Mahdi Hassan Ali, who killed three people in a Minneapolis market in 2010. He won’t be eligible to seek parole until he serves 90 years, which his attorneys say amounts to a life sentence. They argued that the three sentences should run together, so he’d be eligible for release after 30 years. His attorneys are seeking a U.S. Supreme Court review.
In its decision, the state’s highest court said the U.S. Supreme Court rulings don’t squarely address how multiple sentences should be handled, so absent further guidance it would not apply the federal rulings.
The final decision in the Ali case could affect two other offenders: Brian Lee Flowers, 25, and Stafon Thompson, 26, were 16 and 17 when they killed a mother and son in Minneapolis in 2008. Both were initially sentenced to mandatory life without parole.
Flowers was resentenced earlier this year to two concurrent sentences of life with the possibility of parole, meaning he can seek parole after 30 years. Prosecutors are appealing, arguing that Flowers’ sentences should be consecutive. His resentencing was carried out before the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled on the Ali case.
Flowers’ co-defendant, Thompson, has not been resentenced yet. The district court was awaiting a final ruling in the Ali case.
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