Oregon Court Denies Appeal for School Shooter Kip Kinkel, Upholds 112-Year Term

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Kip Kinkel

Kip Kinkel, recent prison photo. Courtesy Oregon DOC

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that a nearly 112-year prison sentence for high school shooter Kip Kinkel isn’t cruel and unusual punishment given the breadth and severity of his crimes, The Oregonian reports.

Kinkel was 15 when he killed his parents in their  home in 1998, then showed up the next day at Thurston High School in Springfield, Or., with three guns hidden in his trench coat. He killed two classmates and wounded 25 others, in what was considered the worst school shooting until the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

Kinkel, now 35, argued that his sentence amounts to a life term without parole and violates the Eighth Amendment because he committed his crimes when he was a juvenile. He argues that his sentence falls under the 2012 Supreme Court Miller v. Alabama  ruling that mandatory life sentences for two 14-year-old murder defendants were cruel and unusual punishment because of their age.

The 2012 decision has led to a re-evaluation of juvenile murder sentences across the nation. The Oregon Supreme Court was unpersuaded. The court said that Kinkel’s crimes reflected “irreparable corruption” rather than youthful immaturity that could change over time. It noted that Kinkel’s sentencing judge found that he had an incurable illness, either paranoid schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder.

The court couldn’t say Kinkel’s sentence was “constitutionally disproportionate,” given the number of people he killed and injured. Dissenting Justice James Egan said, “It is difficult to comprehend how petitioner’s youth at the time of his crimes, in combination with his mental disorder, did not affect the nature and gravity of his crimes.”

The Oregon Justice Resource Center, an advocacy group, agreed. Its director, Bobbin Singh, said, “The scientific evidence is clear: all young people have inherent potential to grow and change including those who have committed the most serious crimes.”

The case may now head to the Supreme Court, according to his lawyer, Portland attorney Andy Shimrin.

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