Georgia Supreme Court reverses juvenile defendant life, no parole, sentence
By Emory University School of Law | Emory Law | October 7, 2013
A man sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes committed at age 17 had his sentence vacated by the Georgia Supreme Court today. Students from Emory Law’s Barton Child Law and Policy Center Appeal for Youth Clinic drafted the appeal and argued the case under the supervision of attorney Steve Reba, the clinic’s director.
“This is a significant victory for youthful offenders in Georgia, who will now be held accountable for their crimes through appropriate and just sentences. We are so proud of Steve and his students for the valuable contributions they made to shaping this legal precedent ,” said Melissa Carter, the Center’s executive director.
Tyler Keenan 13L and Jacqueline Miraglia 12L argued the motion before the trial court, Carter said. Tammy Tanner and Tabitha Rogers, both class of 2014, drafted the brief to the state Supreme Court.
Their client was Marcus Moore, who was found guilty of two counts of murder and two counts of aggravated assault in 2001. Two teenagers, Neiteka Wesbey and Corey McMillan, were killed and Larry Donnell Sanders injured. A fourth teenager was also shot at, but not wounded. Prosecutors sought the death penalty.
The day after a jury found him guilty, Moore entered a plea that accepted the verdict and a sentence of life imprisonment without parole for the first murder. The agreement stipulated he would give up his right to appeal his conviction and sentence.
The basis of Monday’s reversal was the argument that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Roper v. Simmons applied retroactively to Georgia’s 2001 sentencing provisions. The Court found the Eighth Amendment prohibited imposition of the death penalty against offenders who were under 18 at the time their crimes were committed.
In 2010, Moore filed a motion to correct void sentence, because in 2001, Georgia’s sentencing laws authorized a sentence of life without parole only where the State could legally seek imposition of the death penalty. So, when Roper removed the death penalty as a sentencing option in Moore’s prosecution due to his age, he became ineligible to receive a sentence of life without parole.
On Monday, the Georgia Supreme court vacated Moore’s sentence, and remanded the case to the trial court “with direction to enter a legal sentence.”