The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a Pottawattamie County man who was convicted of murder when he was a teen can challenge his life sentence as cruel and unusual punishment. Jefferey Ragland was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole for his involvement in a 1982 fight in the parking lot of a Council Bluffs store.
During the fight, Ragland’s friend Mathew Gill, struck Timothy Sieff in the head with a tire iron and killed him. Ragland tried several appeals which were all rejected. His last appeal said giving him a life sentence was illegal as it was cruel and unusual punishment because he was only 17-years-old at the time of the crime.
The district court and Iowa Court of Appeals rejected the cruel and unusual punishment appeal, saying it was a rehash of previous appeals made by Ragland in the case. The Iowa Supreme Court however ruled that the circumstances have changed with court rulings on the cruel and unusual punishment issue, and Ragland should be allowed to pursue that claim in district court.
The High Court said however, the cruel and unusual punishment claim is the only avenue of appeal that can be considered in Ragland’s case.
See the complete ruling here: Ragland appeal PDF