Hike sentence

Long sentence for a black man who killed in 17 stands

SEATTLE, AP — The Washington Supreme Court has refused to reconsider an opinion that upheld a virtual life sentence for a Black man for shootings he committed when he was 17, despite criticism that the decision betrayed racial prejudice.

The court upheld Tonelli Anderson’s 61-year sentence in September, dropping a precedent set a year earlier in which it had ruled – in the case of a white defendant – that such long sentences for underage killers were unconstitutional because they left them no chance. of a meaningful life outside prison.

Anderson’s attorney, Travis Stearns of the Washington Appellate Project, called for a reconsideration of the 5-4 decision, writing that it reflected racial bias. Three civil rights organizations – the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Rights and Equality at Seattle University School of Law; the Juvenile Law Center, based in Philadelphia; and Huy, who supports Indigenous inmates in the Pacific Northwest – also urged the court to reconsider.

But such requests are long legal plans, and the court dismissed them on Monday without explanation. King County prosecutors also objected, saying Anderson’s criminal history and late acceptance of responsibility helped set his case apart.

Anderson, now 45, shot two women, killing one and blinding the other, during a drug robbery in Tukwila in 1994. An accomplice also shot and killed a man in the same home.

Anderson was not immediately arrested and went on to commit other crimes as a young adult, including assault and robbery, and he wrote letters to girlfriends bragging about the shooting. It was not until 1998, after investigators learned of the letters, that he was charged.

He was convicted of first degree murder in 2000 and sentenced to 61 years. He was granted a new sentencing hearing in 2018, following federal and state rulings that children should be treated differently by the justice system. But the judge gave him the same term, finding Anderson failed to show the shots reflected “passing immaturity”.

In recent years, the Washington Supreme Court has further restricted the sentences that can be imposed on children.

In 2018, judges ruled that it was against the state Constitution to sentence 16- or 17-year-olds to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This decision came in the case of Brian Bassett, a white man who killed his parents and brother when he was 16 years old. Bassett has since been sentenced to 28 years.

In September, the court overturned a 46-year sentence for Timothy Haag, a white man who was 17 when he drowned his 7-year-old neighbor. In that case, a majority of six judges ruled that defendants of juvenile murder should be offered “a meaningful opportunity to reintegrate into society after their release from prison”.

Both Bassett and Haag were quickly arrested and prosecuted.

In Anderson’s appeal, Judge Debra Stephens wrote for the 5-4 majority that such virtual life sentences for minors are prohibited by the state Constitution only if their crimes “reflect immaturity, the impetuosity or inability of youth to appreciate risks and consequences”.

Anderson was no such case, Stephens said.

The dissenting justices said it was absurd for the court to consider a 46-year sentence for a 17-year-old white man to be a ‘de facto’ life sentence unconstitutional, while upholding a 61-year sentence for a 17-year-old black man. 17 years. Old. Judge Mary Yu wrote that it would be “willfully reckless” to conclude that race played no role.

The King County Prosecutor’s Office said the High Court’s decision upheld the discretion of trial judges to assess the facts of each case and impose an appropriate sentence.