Judges in Alabama have a new option for sentencing juvenile killers that could change the fate of young convicts.
It keeps minors convicted of murder from automatically being sentenced to life without parole.
On Friday morning, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that state judges can sentence minors convicted of murder to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The ruling comes after a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that prevents juveniles from getting the death penalty.
Alabama judges were then left with only one sentence option for juvenile killers: life without parole. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled
that under the Constitution, judges must have more than one choice in deciding the fate of minors.
The ruling calls to mind several brutal murders committed by juveniles in the Wiregrass. 17-year-old Shaber Wimberly was sentenced to death in 1997,
That's after he was convicted of three murders. He appealed his sentence in 2005 because of his age at the time of the murders, and instead of death, he now faces a lesser sentence: life without parole.
Wimberly has already petitioned to have his sentence changed again, but that doesn't seem likely.
Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska says, "those petitions have been denied throughout the state and I expect them to be denied in this circuit, that will go to the circuit judge. So he should go back to prison to serve life without parole which means he dies there. He doesn't get another hearing."
For cases that are on the docket now, trial judges will carry out juvenile sentencing without a jury's recommendation.