Appeals Court: Mandatory Mimimum Sentence for 18-year-old Not Cruel or Unusual
By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter
DES MOINES, Iowa - A mandatory minimum sentence for an 18-year-old convicted of robbery which led to the murder of Kevin Bell in 2010 doesn’t meet the cruel and unusual punishment prohibitions in the federal and state constitutions, according to an appeals court ruling Wednesday.
The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld Gabriel Taylor’s conviction of 25 years for first-degree robbery in which he must serve 17 and a half years before being eligible for parole. The court ruled the mandatory minimum of 17 years isn’t grossly disproportionate to his crime, as was argued in the appeal.
Taylor, along with Johven Lee, 21, and Denum Null, 18, all of Cedar Rapids, were convicted in the Jan. 11, 2010 robbery and murder of Bell, 26, of Cedar Rapids.
Taylor and Lee, originally charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and the state agreed to dismiss the murder charges if they would testify against Null, who shot Bell. Taylor and Lee admitted they went with Null to rob Bell but Null brought the gun and shot Bell in the head.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled a mandatory life sentence without parole for juveniles violates the cruel and unusual punishment provision in the Eighth Amendment but that decision does not extend to the mandatory minimum in this issue, according to the ruling.
Taylor argued his age or immaturity are a factor but he didn’t establish that it would be more cruel or unusual for him to be in prison from the time he was 18 until 35 than for another offender to spend his mid-life or twilight years behind bars. Both an adult and a juvenile offender would serve the same time, just at different stages of their lives, the court stated.
In the appeal, he also argues he had minimum participation in the crime, but testimony shows he went with Null and Lee to commit an armed robbery and he admitted to knowing Null had a gun, according to the ruling. Minutes of testimony support the original charge of his aiding and abetting in the murder.
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