A life prison sentence without parole was upheld by a judge against a man convicted of murder when he was 14. Omer Ninham was convicted in 1998 of intentional homicide for tossing 13-year-old Zong Vang off the St. Vincent Hospital parking ramp.
The U.S. Supreme Court rule this past January that people serving mandatory life terms without parole for murders they committed as teenagers must have a chance to seek their freedom.
The now-32-year-old Ninham used that case as the basis for his appeal,arguing for a change in his sentence at a hearing in June. However, Judge Kendell Kelly rejected the motion in a two-part, 11-page decision stating the Supreme Court decision doesn’t apply to Ninham.
“Based on the foregoing analysis, the Court is satisfied that Ninham is not entitled to resentencing under Miller because his life-without-parole sentence was discretionary, not mandatory. Nevertheless, the court will examine whether, at the time of sentencing, the Court sufficiently considered Ninham’s age and related circumstances when imposing a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.“
Kelly, who took over the case from the retiring Judge J.D. McKay, also reviewed McKay’s handling of the case, and deemed the sentence appropriate:
“The Court expressed, in various ways, the belief that Ninham was one of those rarest, irreparably corrupt juvenile offenders deserving of the harshest possible punishment,” Kelley said. “Upon examination of the entire record, the Court is therefore satisfied that the sentencing Court appropriately considered Ninham’s youth and related characteristics when imposing this sentence. Notably, even if the Court were compelled to resentence Ninham, the Court would be obligated to assess the same factors considered by the Court at Ninham’s sentencing in 2000 – and, although the Court may now use terminology more consistent with Miller and related decisions, the only conceivable conclusion is that sentencing Ninham to life in prison without parole for Vang’s murder is just (as) warranted in 2016 as it was in 2000.”
Then-13-year-old Richard Crapeau was also sentenced to life in prison for Vang’s death, but his parole eligibility is after serving 50 years.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice says Ninham’s case is the only one in the state with someone serving a life sentence with no chance at parole for a crime committed as a teenager.