Two Iowans given life sentences for murders committed when they were teenagers will get new sentences. The Iowa Court of Appeals has vacated the mandatory life sentences of Christine Lockheart and Thomas Bennett based on the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that mandatory life sentences for those who commit crimes as minors is “cruel and unusual punishment.”
Lockheart was found guilty of first-degree murder committed during a robbery in Scott County in June of 1985 when she was 17. She was convicted along with her boyfriend of stabbing a retired Davenport bus driver.
Bennett was convicted in Polk County of murder in 1988 after he and two friends shot and killed a neighbor who had just cashed his Social Security check. Bennett was 17-years and four months old when the crime happened. The Iowa Court of Appeals has sent both cases back to the district court for resentencing.
The Appeals Court rulings in both cases indicated that while a mandatory life sentence is not proper, that does not prevent the district court from imposing a life sentence in each case if the court rules it is appropriate. The Iowa Department of Corrections estimates there are some three dozen cases that could be impacted by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.