The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled a multi-year sentence given to a teenager involved in a robbery and shooting death is not cruel and unusual punishment. Gabriel Taylor was 17-years-old when he went with friends to an apartment in Cedar Rapids in January of 2010 to steal some drugs.
He knew that one of his friends was carrying a gun. One of the people in the apartment was shot and died in the robbery attempt. Taylor made an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to first-degree robbery and testify against his friend in exchange for having a first-degree murder charge against him dropped.
He was sentenced to 25-years in prison with a mandatory requirement that he serve at least 17-and-a-half years before being paroled. Taylor appealed his sentence, citing his age at the time, and saying it was cruel and unusual punishment as he would have to serve what amounts to half of his life by the time he gets out of prison for a crime where he was a bystander.
The Iowa Court of Appeals said several factors supported the sentence, including the death of a person in the crime. The court said while Taylor’s age should be considered, and while the sentence “is an onerous punishment,” it is not in the same category as the death penalty or life without parole.
The ruling said Taylor did not show that it would be more cruel to serve the sentence now than if he had committed the crime when he was 35. The court also said, Taylor’s failure to accept responsibility for the current crime and failure to reform after previous crimes showed the need for a strong sentence.
See the complete ruling here: Taylor ruling PDF