The Louisiana Supreme Court has decided that those serving life sentences for crimes committed when they were juveniles will not receive a mandatory review of their cases.
The ruling seems to lessen a state law passed last year that allowed those who were given mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole a chance to receive a hearing in front of a parole board.
While other states have applied similar laws to allow the review of those currently serving mandatory sentences, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled 5-2 late last year that the law will only apply to new cases in which juveniles are facing mandatory life sentences.
The ruling may have extinguished hopes of release for three prisoners who are currently serving life sentences for murders that occurred in St. Charles Parish.
The most well know of the three is Gary Tyler, an African-American who as a teenager was convicted by an all-white jury in the 1974 shooting of Timothy Weber at Destrehan High School during school riots. Tyler has been incarcerated for 40 years for the crime.
Following Tyler’s conviction, numerous individuals and organizations have come out on his behalf calling the trial unfair and requesting his release. He was subsequently recommended for a pardon three times by the Louisiana Board of Pardons, but was denied on each occasion.
Tyler’s family was looking forward to the potential that his sentence may be reviewed. Ella Mae Wilmore, Tyler’s sister, has maintained that her brother is innocent.
“I believe that my brother did not do that,” Wilmore said. “He’s always said that he is innocent, that he didn’t do it. So I believe there was another shooter.”
However, Weber’s family still feels like Tyler’s conviction was appropriate and that he is guilty for Timothy’s death. In addition to Tyler, two others serving life sentences will not be up for mandatory review.
Michael Fasola was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2003 for the murder of Jon Springman at the Bonnet Carre Spillway.
Fasola, who was 17 when the murder occurred in 2001, was convicted two years later after Springman’s skeletal remains were found by a local fisherman.
Police said that Springman, Fasola and another friend were walking near the spillway smoking marijuana and target shooting when Fasola suddenly turned his gun on Springman and shot him in the back of the head, killing him. Fasola later admitted to the murder in a videotaped interview.
Springman’s mother, Carolyn Springman, said that she didn’t care if Fasola spent the rest of his life in jail or was released in 30 years.
“None of it is going to bring my son back,” she said.
The other case that might have been up for review before the Supreme Court’s ruling was the brutal 1981 rape and murder of 11-year-old Barbara Jo Brown of Luling.
Victor “Bruce” Perritt and John Brogdon were both convicted in that case. While Brogdon, who was 19 at the time of the crime, was executed, Perritt, who was 17, was given a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Brogdon admitted he and Perritt, who he claimed were both drunk at the time, picked up Brown at a convenience store and took her behind a Mississippi River levee. That’s where they repeatedly raped her, punched her and stabbed her with sticks and broken bottles. Brogdon also told officers Perritt hit the young girl in the head with a brick.
Brown’s sister, Robetta Pysarenko, said the murder of her sister has haunted her. She never wants Perritt to get out of jail.
“Somebody who set out to do something that evil and premeditated doesn’t deserve to get out,” Pysarenko said.
While the ruling may be a relief for the families of victims, there is speculation that the matter may be brought up for another review by the U.S. Supreme Court.