The United States Supreme Court has thrown out the life sentence of a Wyoming teen convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. The case involves Bear Cloud, who was 16 years old when he was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to straight life in prison, while two other teens who were also convicted of the murder were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Wyoming law mandates a sentence of life or life without parole for juvenile offenders convicted of murder. Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state laws which mandate life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. But while such laws are unconstitutional the Supreme Court did not invalidate these laws. The Court only required that the laws provide that courts need to consider alternatives to life in prison before imposing sentences to juveniles. The Supreme Court sent Bear Cloud’s case back to the Wyoming Supreme Court so it could consider what further steps should be taken. The most likely outcome is that the case will be sent back to the trial court to conduct a hearing to determine the level of maturity of the defendant, intelligence and potential for rehabilitation. The trial court must consider the potential for rehabilitation.
James Dimeas is an award winning criminal defense attorney and author with more than 24 years of experience aggressively representing his clients in criminal cases. If you have a criminal case in Illinois, contact me in Chicago (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096) or Lake (847-696-6458) for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.