The Louisiana Supreme Court heard arguments from members of the Loyola Law Clinic in a case involving the constitutionality of a 99-year sentence for a juvenile who committed an armed robbery. Ashley Crawford and Meagan Impastato, under the supervision of Professor Majeeda Snead represented then-juvenile Alden Morgan.
The New Orleans Advocate has coverage of the case:
The case appears to mark the first time the state's high court has considered how the U.S. Supreme Court's rulings on young killers — based on the notion that their immature brains signal "diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform" — might play out for lesser offenses.
A few of the justices also expressed dismay that, in light of those rulings, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office offered only one argument: that Morgan is legally out of luck in seeking a reprieve from the sentence that former Criminal District Court Judge Julian Parker handed him in 1999.
Morgan was arrested shortly after the robbery in the 1100 block of Second Street. A police officer tracked him by a cellphone that one of the victims had left in the Volvo, chasing it until the car hit a tree and the officer found Morgan hiding in a nearby shed.
Morgan confessed, saying he had approached the couple as they were putting their baby in the car, demanded the keys, and then "the gun went off, 'Pow!' " as he reached down for the man's wallet on the ground.
The couple later testified at Morgan's trial that he'd kept the gun pointed to the ground as the mother unstrapped the baby from the car seat. They heard it fire as they retreated.
Armed robbery carries a sentence of 10 to 99 years. Following Morgan's conviction, Parker handed him the maximum, finding that "it was Morgan's intent to kill either this child or (the father)," and that he showed no remorse.
He'd attempted suicide several times beginning at age 10, was diagnosed with mild mental retardation and also abused cocaine and heroin, according to testimony from his mother and a juvenile probation officer.
"I have heard nothing today," Parker concluded, "that ... would in any way change my opinion of his propensities for violence and his propensities to kill people," according to a transcript.
All of Morgan's appeals, including a petition for federal habeas corpus relief, were rejected. But he filed a new challenge from prison based on the recent U.S. Supreme Court cases, including the retroactive ban on mandatory life sentences for juveniles. The state Supreme Court took up his case last year, assigning the Loyola Law Clinic to represent him.
Loyola law professor Majeeda Snead and law students Ashley Crawford and Meagan Impastato argued that Parker never took into account "mitigating factors of his youth" in sentencing Morgan.
The court appointed the Loyola Law Clinic to represent Morgan back in March. After hundreds of hours of research and preparation, Ashley Crawford and Meagan filed a brief with the court on May 18th. Snead and the students are hoping the court will grant a new sentencing hearing, or possibly even grant a new, shorter sentence.