In a split decision, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered the resentencing of two juveniles convicted of murder in separate high-profile cases. The court ruled that it is not constitutionally sound to sentence a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole unless prosecutors present sufficient evidence that the defendant is "irreparably corrupt and permanently incorrigible."
The court looked to recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court regarding sentencing of juvenile offenders, and established new instructions for juries considering the convictions and sentencing of juvenile offenders. Now, prior to sentencing of a juvenile offender, jury members must be informed that "no person who committed a crime as a juvenile may be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole unless you find beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant is irreparably corrupt and permanently incorrigible."
As a result of the ruling, two juveniles convicted of murder must be resentenced, because the juries in those cases were not provided with evidence of "important youth-related considerations."
Chancey Allen Luna, now 19, was 16 years old when he shot and killed a jogger, Australian Christopher Lane, who was in Oklahoma on a baseball scholarship and visiting his girlfriend in Duncan when he was murdered. Luna appears to have selected his victim at random and shot him because he and his friends were "bored." Last year, a jury convicted Luna of first degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Tucker Ryan McGee, now 22, was 17 years old when he shot and killed 16-year-old JaRay Wilson in Weatherford in 2012. Wilson was missing for more than a year before her body was found. Last year, a jury convicted McGee of first degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison without parole.
In both cases, the men are entitled to resentencing by a jury; however, Custer County District Attorney Angela Marsee says McGee may ask a judge to make the decision alone.
Regardless of whether a jury is involved or the judge alone makes the decision, in resentencing, they must consider and determine whether the crime reflects "transient immaturity" or "irreparable corruption and permanent incorrigibility." Unless the answer is the latter, a sentence of life without parole is not appropriate under the appeals court's decision.
Prosecutors in both cases say they will still seek a punishment of life without parole. If the sentences are amended to life in prison, the men could become eligible for parole after serving 38 years and 3 months of the sentence.