PIERRE, S.D. (AP/Attorney General’s Office) – South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says officials have identified three inmates in the state prison system who are serving mandatory life sentences for murders they committed when they were younger than 18. A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision says mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile homicide offenders violates the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The three South Dakota inmates serving mandatory life sentences for murders committed when they were under 18 are Paul D. Jensen, Daniel N. Charles and Jessi Owens. Then-14-year-old Jensen was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder for the 1996 death of Michael Hare, a Pierre, S.D., taxicab driver. Jensen kidnapped, robbed, and murdered Hare for his cab fare, a total of $36.48. Jensen is serving a life sentence for kidnapping Hare. State officials believe Jensen’s kidnapping sentence is constitutional under the recent United States Supreme Court decision because it was not a mandatory sentence, but a maximum sentence imposed on the basis of the severity of Jensen’s crime. The decision’s impact on the South Dakota cases is unclear. More than 2,000 people are in U.S. prisons under such a sentence. Some might win immediate release, while others still could be kept locked up for life. Judges also could impose new sentences carrying a specific number of years and a parole review.
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