New sentencing rules for convicted teen murderers - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

New sentencing rules for convicted teen murderers

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Andrea Long has good days and bad days.

It's been four years since her sons, 17-year-old Joshua Davis and 18-year-old Terry Long, were shot and killed.

The killer, Montrez Williams, was just 17 years old at the time

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

"I do not want him to be free, I don't ever want him to be free but I do have to pray to forgive him because what he did was a sick act," said Long.

But under a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Williams could one day walk out of jail.

The high court ruled, "mandatory life without parole for those under the age of

18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishments."

Some defense attorneys liken the old mandatory life without parole sentence to the death penalty and call it unfair.

Andrea disagrees.

"I really don't feel that we should be worried about mercy, we should be worrying about who else could be a victim if we let some of these teens out," said Long.

Currently, 10 percent of the 130 pending homicide cases in Mecklenburg County involve suspects under age 18.

The new ruling  also applies to older cases.

That means 7 murderers with convictions dating back to the 90's will go before a judge for a new sentencing hearing in 2013.

"The statute allows them to consider the maturity of the offender  and whether they're susceptible to peer pressure when they were under the age of 18," said Bill Stetzer, an assistant district attorney with the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office.

Bill Stetzer heads up the homicide team for the Mecklenburg County DA's office.

He says the new hearings put a strain on a system,  which is already stretched thin.

"Right now, we are setting aside time that we would ordinarily set for trial," said Stetzer.

Under the new law, the minimum sentence would be life in prison with parole after 25 years.

Andrea says it's hard to believe her sons' killer could eventually be set free.

"Why should the punishment be lessened because the law has changed? Because the law didn't change for Josh and Terry," said Long.

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