The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments how life sentences should be handled for people who commit crimes when they are juveniles. The arguments surrounded the case of Isaiah Sweet, who was 17-years-old when he admitted in 2012 to killing his grandparents in their Manchester home. Sweet’s lawyers not only say his two life sentences without parole are an abuse under a U-S Supreme Court ruling on juvenile sentences — but they are also asking that all juvenile life sentences be categorically denied. Shellie Knipfer presented the argument for Sweet.
Her arguments were interrupted quickly by Justice David Wiggins who questioned why they shouldn’t just rule on Sweet’s sentence instead of making an overall decision.
Knipfer says if the court doesn’t categorically declare all juvenile life sentences without parole unconstitutional, the justices will have to continually hear such cases over and over. Justice Thomas Waterman wanted to know why Sweet’s isn’t one for life without parole.
The attorney representing the state, Tyler Buller, argued the sentence is fitting in this case.
Justice Wiggins says evidence presented shows 75 percent of the juvenile offenders can turn things around and return to society. He says there is no evaluation done on Sweet to determine where he might end up, but Buller argued Sweet’s crime is not like others committed by those too young to know better, saying the evidence shows the crime wasn’t a youthful indiscretion.
Sweet’s attorney made the final argument for changing his life sentence without parole.
This is one of several cases the Iowa Supreme Court has addressed since the U-S Supreme Court ruling that juveniles cannot automatically be sentenced to life without parole.
(Photo courtesy of Telegraph Herald)