The Washington Supreme Court handed down its opinion in the case of State v. Houston-Sconiers in March of 2017. According to the Seattle Times, in that case, the court “gave trial judges unfettered discretion to depart from standard sentences and mandatory enhancements in place for adult defendants when sentencing people who were juveniles when they committed a violent crime and were then convicted in adult court.” Just recently the first defendant decided to take advantage of this ruling and asked to be re-sentenced for a crime he committed while he was a juvenile.
Elijah Hall “was 17 when he fatally shot a convenience-store clerk during a failed robbery” in July of 2009. In the early morning hours of July 26th, Hall went to a local convenience store and gas station and attempted to open the cash register. The store clerk, 28-year old Manish Melwani, was in the backroom when Hall entered the store but he came out and ended up in a struggle with Hall. According to the Seattle Times, “Hall shot Melwani in the thigh and abdomen before fleeing the store, ditching his gun and dumping his bloody clothes nearby.” Hall returned to the store later that morning and aroused the suspicion of a police detective after speaking with him. His fingerprints were also later found at the scene.
Hall was sentenced to 27 and a half years in jail after being convicted of first-degree murder nearly three years later in February 2012. Just recently, Hall petitioned King County Superior Court Judge Mariane Spearman for a new sentence and in October 2017 the judge granted his request. She reduced his sentence down to just 13 and a half years, 14 years less than the original sentence. The judge told Hall, “I don't think you're irreparably corrupt. I think you have the capacity to change.” When Hall was told that his sentence was halved, he broke down in tears.
The prosecution argued against reducing the sentence contending that “[w]hile the high court's rulings now allow trial judges to take into consideration a defendant's youth and particular life circumstances and depart from standard sentences, they've also made clear that not every juvenile is entitled to a prison sentence below the standard range.” In addition, the prosecutor argued that the circumstances of the case justified the original sentence and that Hall has not been a model inmate, having “racked up numerous serious infractions during his time in prison, 13 this year alone.” The victim's family also spoke on his behalf.
According to the Seattle Times, numerous people spoke on Hall's behalf including family and school teachers. Hall's attorney stated that “Hall didn't intend to kill Melwani and was convicted of first-degree murder under the felony murder rule: That is, where a non-intentional killing is a foreseeable consequence of committing a violent crime like armed robbery.” He also contended that “'the developing brain and the emotional volatility that comes with youth,' young people like Hall have a lesser ability to understand that risk, weigh options and devise a strategy to get themselves out of a situation.” He had argued for an even lower sentence for Hall, of 10 years. In addition, Hall also spoke on his own behalf.
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