PA Ruling on Teen Life Without Parole May Still Leave Many Serving Life


Pennsylvania teen killer Qu’eed Batts will get a new sentencing hearing for a gang-ordered murder he committed at 14, but he could still end up spending the rest of his life in prison nonetheless, says the Allentown Morning Call. That’s the reality facing Batts and nearly 500 other once-youthful murderers in Pennsylvania under a long-anticipated ruling yesterday by the state Supreme Court after their automatic life-without-parole sentences were declared unconstitutional last year. Given the federal decision that such sentences are cruel and unusual punishment, Batts must get a new sentencing in which he gets a maximum sentence of life, but a minimum sentence that is left to the judge’s discretion, the court said. What that minimum sentence might be was unanswered by the court, with advocates for juveniles acknowledging that it probably could still be a life sentence or a prison term that is so long that it is, in essence, life. “That could be anything,” said Robert Schwartz of the Juvenile Law Center of Philadelphia, which argued on behalf of Batts. “It appears that it also could be a minimum of life. There is absolutely nothing to guide [the sentencing judge’s] discretion.” Prosecutor Terence Houck called the ruling a victory for prosecutors that leaves open the possibility that Batts should never be released, as Houck plans to argue at resentencing. “All they are saying is that there has to be a minimum. That minimum can be 150 years,” Houck said. “I don’t think Batts should ever get out. He’s the poster boy for life in prison.”

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