The state Supreme Court is considering the case of a teen sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder. Justices heard oral arguments Wednesday in the case of Omer Ninham, who was convicted of first degree intentional homicide for the 1998 murder of a 13-year-old boy.
Ninham was 14 when he and a group of friends chased their victim to the top of a parking ramp in Green Bay, then dangled him over the edge and dropped him to his death.
Attorney Bryan Stevenson says Ninham’s sentence is cruel and unusual, despite the severity of his crime. He says it’s the harshest sentence imposed, usually given to serial murderers and those who commit a series of crime over time.
Arguing before the court, Stevenson pointed to studies in adolescent brain development, claiming they show Ninham has a chance to reform and should be able to earn his release later in life. He also cited recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings against using the death penalty and life imprisonment in non-capital cases as examples of why Ninham should not be left to die in prison.
However, Assistant State Attorney General Sally Wellman says Ninham’s sentence reflected his heinous crime. She says the taking of a life allows for more serious penalties to be considered, so retribution can be exacted against a 14-year-old for homicide.
The state Court of Appeals last year blocked efforts to reduce Ninham’s sentence. The Supreme Court will deliberate and release its decision at a later date.