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.
facebook twitter email alerts you tube hooplanow