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Convicted as NH teen killers, court hearing considers sentences
Only Dingman, who was convicted with his younger brother of murdering their parents in their Rochester home in 1996, and Soto appeared at the hour-long hearing. Soto is the youngest and most recently convicted defendant seeking a resentencing hearing. He was convicted of accomplice to first-degree murder in the 2007 shooting death of Aaron Kar in Manchester.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 25, 2012, in Miller v. Alabama that automatic life without parole sentences for juvenile murderers are unconstitutional because the sentences violate the Eighth Amendment’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment.
“If we apply the rule to one person on collateral review, it has to be applied to everyone else,” New Hampshire Public Defender Richard C. Guerriero argued.
Guerriero conceded under questioning by Smukler that the Supreme Court did not use the word “retroactive.”
“We don’t have any clear-cut authority one way or another and...this seems to fall a little bit in the middle,” the judge added. Smukler took the matter under advisement and said he would issue an order later. Should he rule retroactivity applies, the cases would proceed to individual sentencing hearings.
“Mr. Lopez is a perfect example of why the U.S. Supreme Court pointed out why children are different,” public defender Pamela K. Jones told the judge. His case exemplifies why the high court “anticipated there would be children amenable to rehabilitation and he would be on of those children,” Jones added.
“Lopez was sentenced as a child. He served 22 years of a life sentence” with no opportunity to present mitigating evidence of his capacity for reform, maturity, penchant for recklessness or other factors, Jones said.
To date, just one juvenile killer — Steven Spader, 21, — was deemed eligible for a resentencing hearing because his case still was pending direct appeal. Spader waived his right to appear at the hearing. He was sentenced April 26 to life without parole plus 76 years — the original sentence he receive for the 2009 slaying of a Mont Vernon mother and attempted murder of her daughter in their home.
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