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Life Terms

August 17, 2012 | By Victoria Kim, Los Angeles Times
Sentencing a juvenile offender to 110 years to life in prison for attempted murder is cruel and unusual punishment, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday, striking down a sentence in a Los Angeles County case. The state high court's decision comes as courts across the nation are grappling with the ramifications of a 2010 U.S. Supreme Courtdecision that found it unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile convicted of a crime other than murder to life in prison without parole. In that case, Graham vs. Florida, the court ruled that young offenders should be given "some realistic opportunity" for release, citing "fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds.
June 25, 2012 | By David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - It is cruel and unusual punishment to send a young murderer to die in prison if a judge has not weighed whether his youth and the nature of his crime merited a shorter prison term, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The 5-4 decision struck down laws in 28 states that mandated life terms for juvenile murderers with no hope for parole. The justices ruled in the cases of two 14-year-old boys, one from Alabama and one from Arkansas, who were given life terms for their roles in homicides.
June 25, 2012 | By David G. Savage, This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday limited the use of life terms in prison for murderers under 18, ruling that judges must consider the defendant's youth and the nature of the crime before putting him behind bars with no hope for parole. In a 5-4 decision, the high court struck down as cruel and unusual punishment the laws in about 28 states that mandated a life term for murderers, including those under age 18. The justices ruled in the cases of two 14-year-olds who were given life terms for their role in a homicide, but their decision goes further.
June 13, 2012 | By Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times
A San Bernardino County jury Wednesday rejected a controversial "Zoloft" defense presented by a former Westminster police detective accused of kidnapping and raping a waitress in 2010, finding the defendant guilty of all eight charges. Anthony Nicholas Orban's attorney acknowledged from the outset that his client attacked the woman, but argued that the former detective was rendered mentally "unconscious" by a powerful dose of the prescription antidepressant and was not responsible for his actions.
April 12, 2012 | By Dalina Castellanos
A murderer  executed Thursday for killing a teenage girl almost 30 years ago apologized to her family before he died. “I would like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott that I am truly sorry for my part in the death of your daughter,” David Alan Gore said before receiving a lethal injection, according to an email from Florida Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jo Ellyn Rackleff. “I wish above all else my death could bring her back … I am not the same man today that I was 28 years ago.” Gore, 58, admitted he killed two women and four girls in the 1980s in the eastern Florida town of Vero Beach.
March 23, 2012
Seven years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that offenders younger than 18 couldn't be sentenced to death, arguing that juveniles are generally less culpable than adults because they are less mature, more impulsive and more susceptible to peer pressure. By the same unassailable logic, the court should hold that sentencing young murderers to life without parole is cruel and unusual punishment. Evan Miller and Kuntrell Jackson were both 14 when they committed their crimes. Miller and a 16-year-old friend beat a neighbor and set fire to his house in Alabama, leading to the neighbor's death by smoke inhalation.
February 23, 2012 | By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
After a devout 63-year-old north Texas woman was abducted and sexually assaulted by a former neighbor, she said she survived by praying and reading the Bible. A jury convicted Jeffrey Allan Maxwell, 59, of Corsicana this week of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. On Wednesday, a judge sentenced him to three life terms. Maxwell must serve two of his three sentences consecutively, meaning he will not be eligible for parole for 60 years. “I'm proud that it's all over,” Lois Pearson told the Weatherford Democrat after the verdict.
January 5, 2012 | By Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from San Diego -- Former drug kingpin Benjamin Arellano Felix pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal racketeering and money-laundering conspiracy charges, marking the end of a decade-old case that targeted what once was Mexico's most powerful organized crime group. Arellano Felix, 58, the former leader of the Arellano Felix drug cartel, transformed Tijuana into a major trafficking corridor into the U.S. during a 16-year reign that ended with his arrest in Mexico in 2002. The organization, also known as the Tijuana cartel, poured tons of drugs into California and generated profits that fueled a criminal empire that terrorized rivals, partnered with corrupt Mexican law enforcement officials and funded flashy lifestyles that became the template for Hollywood depictions of Mexican organized crime.
January 5, 2012 | By Victoria Kim, Richard Winton and Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times
Hollywood arson suspect Harry Burkhart terrorized Los Angeles residents with a four-day rampage over New Year's weekend because he was "motivated by his rage against Americans," prosecutors alleged in court papers filed Wednesday. Burkhart appeared in court briefly to be arraigned on 37 felony counts of arson that could send him to prison for life. He looked disheveled and distracted as jail authorities have him under suicide watch. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Upinder S. Kalra set bail at $2.85 million and agreed to postpone arraignment until Jan. 24 at the request of Burkhart's public defender.
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