More than three dozen Iowans serving time for murder will get their prison terms reduced, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling today. In a 5 to 4 decision, the court ruled that life sentences without parole are unconstitutional for offenders who committed their crimes as juveniles.
Marty Ryan, with Iowa’s Justice Reform Coalition, says the ruling could have gone either way. “I’m not sure if this was an easy decision for anybody,” Ryan said. “I was surprised, but happily surprised. I think they did the right thing.”
Two years ago, the high court threw out life sentences without parole for offenders who committed non-murder crimes while underage. Now the court has done the same for those serving time for murder.
“Of course, in the last week of the Supreme Court decisions, they always hand down the tough ones and this is no exception to that,” Ryan said. The 5-4 ruling involved two men, one from Alabama and the other from Arkansas, who committed murders at the age of 14.
The Iowa Department of Corrections reports the ruling will affect 38 inmates, including two at the women’s prison in Mitchellville, who are currently serving life without parole for murder. Several have spent decades in prison after committing their crimes as teenagers.