Lawyer for Oregon school shooter seeks new sentence
PORTLAND — It's been nearly 15 years since an Oregon teen fatally shot his parents and embarked on a deadly high school shooting spree.
Now Kip Kinkel's lawyer is asking a state judge to toss out his nearly 112-year sentence, based on a ruling last summer by the U.S. Supreme Court that dealt with mandatory life in prison without parole for juveniles.
Kinkel was just 15 when he killed two fellow students at Thurston High School in Springfield and wounded 25 others in May 1998. He earlier shot and killed his parents at home.
The Oregonian reports that Kinkel agreed to accept a plea deal to serve 25 years for the fatal shootings. However, a judge sentenced him in November 1999 to 111 years and eight months without the possibility of parole, factoring in time for attempted murder counts.
In a petition filed March 27, Kinkel's lawyer seeks a new sentencing hearing. Oregon's attorney general must respond by next month. State Justice Department spokeswoman Ellen Klem declined comment.
The high court ruled 5-4 in Miller v. Alabama that the mandatory true life sentences for two 14-year-old boys — tried as adults and convicted of murder — violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The court left open the possibility that minors under age 18 still could be sentenced to life without parole, but only if the sentencing judge makes a finding that the penalty is appropriate, weighing the defendant's character and details of the crime.
More than 2,000 juveniles are serving mandatory life sentences without parole in the United States, according to the Juvenile Law Center, a public interest law firm for children based in Philadelphia.
In Oregon, seven inmates sentenced as juveniles are serving life in prison without parole. Three others are like Kinkel, juveniles who were tried as adults and sentenced to 80 years or more, according to state corrections records.
In Kinkel's petition, attorney Andy Simrin argues that the nearly 112-year prison term is longer than the life expectancy of any human. He urges a Marion County judge to throw out Kinkel's sentence and order a new sentencing hearing.
“He pleaded guilty and didn't try to evade responsibility for what he had done and asked for a lawful sentence,” Simrin wrote in the petition.
Kinkel had filed a challenge to his sentence in federal court in 2011, saying he was mentally ill at the time of the shootings and the trial court should not have accepted his guilty plea without first ordering a mental health exam. That's now on hold, pending the outcome of the state petition, The Oregonian reported.
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com