Mandatory life sentences for juveniles at issues before state high court

By Kim Geiger, Tribune reporter
January 15, 2014

Adolfo Davis was just 14 when he committed the crime that led to the life sentence he’s serving today.

An eighth-grader from a troubled home, he had fallen in with a street gang on Chicago’s South Side and took part in a 1990 robbery in which two men were killed.

Though Davis never fired the gun he wielded, he was convicted in the murders and received a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

More than two decades later, Davis, now 37, is hoping that a 2012 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court could lead the way to his release.

On Wednesday, Illinois’ highest court heard oral arguments in Chicago over whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling — which deemed sentences like Davis’ unconstitutional — should be applied retroactively in Davis’ case. The decision by the Illinois Supreme Court could set a precedent for the estimated 80 other inmates in the state who are serving mandatory life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles.

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