Two Life Sentences for Offenders Convicted As Juveniles Overturned
By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter
DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Court of Appeals overturned the first two life sentences of juveniles in the state Wednesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that life without parole for offenders under 18 is “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Christine Marie Lockheart, who was convicted at 17 in 1985 and Thomas Bennett, convicted at 17 in 1998, both for first-degree murder, will be resentenced. The District Court will have the opportunity to consider any mitigating evidence to determine the appropriate sentence.
Lockheart and Bennett are among 39 offenders in the state who are convicted as juveniles and serving life sentences without parole.
Of the 39 offenders, 30 were convicted of first-degree murder, four of first-degree kidnapping and one of first-degree sexual abuse, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections. There are 35 men and four women and the offenders ranged in age from 14 to 17 when they committed the offense.
The only offenders convicted as juveniles in Linn County, David Keegan, 28, and Vanice Heath, 35, have not appealed their sentences of first-degree murder based on the new ruling at this time. Lockheart and her boyfriend were convicted in Scott County of stabbing to death a retired Davenport bus driver in 1985. Bennett and two co-defendants were convicted in Polk County of shooting to death a disabled Des Moines man during a robbery in 1998.
According to the ruling, the Supreme Court 5-4 ruling last month didn’t impose a categorical ban on sentencing juvenile homicide offenders under age 18 to life without parole but it does require the sentencing court to consider all pertinent factors such as age and home environment.
The Supreme Court ruling didn’t state whether it applies to those already convicted or only future sentencings, but in Iowa anybody can argue for a different sentence at any time according to the illegal sentencing doctrine in Iowa Criminal Procedure.
What's On KCRG