Yahoo Weather

You are here

Court Upholds Life Sentence For Killer Convicted As Juvenile

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a convicted killer’s argument that his life sentence should be overturned because he was a juvenile at the time of the offense.

The court upheld the life sentence of Jeffery Brown, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in Clark County Circuit Court in May 1982 in the shooting deaths of Steve and Diane Francis, whose bodies were found in a car in Arkadelphia on Jan. 31, 1982. Prosecutors said each of the victims was shot in the back of the head during a robbery committed by Brown and another man, Mark Henderson.

Brown originally was charged with capital murder but was allowed to plead guilty to first-degree murder in exchange for testifying against Henderson, who was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. Brown was 16 at the time of the killings and 17 when he was sentenced.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in consolidated cases from Alabama and Arkansas, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs, that mandatory sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional when applied to juveniles.

In June 2013, Brown filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Lincoln County Circuit Court, arguing that his sentence should be overturned because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling. A circuit judge denied the petition, and Brown appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The state argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling applied only to mandatory sentences of life without parole, and that Brown’s sentence was not mandatory. Brown pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, which carried a sentence of 10 to 40 years in prison or life.

Brown argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling did not only address mandatory sentences. The ruling should be interpreted as requiring sentencers to consider the youthfulness of juvenile offenders, and that did not happen in his case, he argued.

The Arkansas Supreme Court said in its unanimous opinion Thursday that the cases the U.S. Supreme Court addressed concerned juveniles whose sentencers could not consider their youthfulness because their sentences were mandatory.

“Brown was not mandatorily sentenced to life in prison but to a discretionary sentence that included a range; therefore unlike in Jackson and Miller, the circuit court was not precluded from considering his youth,” Justice Karen Baker wrote in the court’s opinion.

Close
The Booneville Democrat website is available only to print and digital subscribers. If you are already a subscriber, you can access the website at no additional charge.