Cedar Rapids Teen's Murder Sentence Deemed Cruel and Unusual

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- A 16 year-old Cedar Rapids teen convicted of killing a man over a drug deal received a "cruel and unusual" punishment, according to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Denem Null, now 20, pleaded guilty of 2nd-degree murder and 1st-degree robbery in the shooting death of Kevin Bell in 2010. A court sentenced Null to 70 years in prison, meaning he wouldn't be eligible for parole until he was 69.

Null's attorneys argue that lengthy sentence for a minor amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and Iowa's Supreme Court agreed, in a ruling released Friday. Null's attorneys argue that length amounts to a de facto life sentence. The Iowa Supreme Court ruling agreed, arguing the lengthy mandatory sentence gave a juvenile no hope of returning to society in a meaningful way.

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year found life sentences are unconstitutional for juveniles. That ruling happened after Null's sentencing. This Iowa ruling takes that ruling a step further, arguing that mandatory minimum sentences must give "meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation."

Read the entire ruling here.
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