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July 23, 2016

Michigan prosecutor wants 71-year-old "juve lifer" to still have no chance of parole

This local AP article, headlined "Prosecutor: No sentencing break for Michigan's oldest juvenile lifer," reports on the disinclination of a Michigan prosecutor to be open to considering even the possibility of parole for an elderly prisoner given LWOP more than a half-century ago. Here are the details:

Oakland County prosecutor Jessica Cooper said Friday she'll seek another no-parole sentence for a 71-year-old man who is the oldest so-called juvenile lifer in the Michigan prison system. Sheldry Topp has been in prison for nearly 54 years. He was 17 in 1962 when he ran away from a state hospital, broke into an Oakland County home and fatally stabbed the owner.

Life sentences with no chance for parole are no longer automatic for anyone under 18. Juvenile lifers have a right to new hearings as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Judges now have discretion and can consider an offender's childhood, education and a variety of other factors.

Prosecutors across Michigan are filing their sentencing proposals this week in more than 350 cases.

The prosecutor said she'll seek no-parole sentences again for 44 people who are in prison, including Topp. She declined to explain her position in Topp's case during an interview with The Associated Press, referring a reporter to a court filing, which wasn't available after business hours.

"When we talk about doing due diligence, we did an incredible amount of due diligence in these cases," said Cooper, a former judge. "The cases that we've been reviewing are not the kids who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. We're talking about stabbings, shootings and strangulations. ... I'm shocked."

Topp, who turns 72 in September, is in a prison in Muskegon. In a recent court filing, attorney Deborah LaBelle said he was in a hospital with heart problems. She couldn't be reached for comment Friday. In 1987 and 2007, the state parole board recommended that Topp's sentence be reduced, but governors declined.

Meanwhile, in Wayne County — the state's largest — prosecutor Kym Worthy said she would seek no-parole sentences again for at least 60 prisoners who were convicted of murder as teens.

Worthy said she'll ask that 81 people be given a certain number of years in prison instead of a no-parole sentence. That could lead to freedom for some who already have been locked up for decades.

July 23, 2016 at 04:03 PM | Permalink


Re: Kym Worthy --

Even though 81/141 is 57.4%, I hardly find it believable that over 40% of these juvenile lifers -- virtually all Black and brown -- are "irreparably corrupted."

Posted by: Rory Fleming | Jul 23, 2016 4:08:29 PM

If the average cost of keeping a prisoner locked up for a year is 34K then after 54 years the state has spent almost two million dollars imprisoning this one man. With respect, that is a lot of textbooks for an elementary school. Furthermore, I can't imagine it gets any cheaper to house prisoners as they get older.

There is retribution, then there is just being stupid.

Posted by: Daniel | Jul 23, 2016 6:02:35 PM

Nathan F. Leopold Jr. was released after 33 years.

Posted by: My friend Docile „ the Nemo Me ♠ Impune Lacessit ♂ & Kind Soul | Jul 23, 2016 6:23:20 PM

For what it's worth, Wikipedia has the following entry:

"Paul Geidel Jr (April 21, 1894 – May 1, 1987) was the longest-serving American prison inmate whose sentence ended with his release. After being convicted of second-degree murder in 1911, Geidel served 68 years and 245 days in various New York state prisons. He was released on May 7, 1980, at the age of 86 and his record was listed in Guinness World Records."

Posted by: anon2 | Jul 24, 2016 10:52:02 AM

There was a guy in Chicago---Heirens i believe was his name, that served a long time.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 25, 2016 7:42:05 AM

William George Heirens. Yes. [65 years]

Posted by: Joe | Jul 25, 2016 10:22:48 AM

My son was convicted of a crime in Port Huron Michigan that he did not do.the witness stated he was not the one and police found my son laid out by the woods and Mr. D.Kruse was in the woods the system did not test the gun for finger prints or the Bandana to see if there was saliva there was no video of my son but one picture of the other guy in the store buying items well anyway my son was on parole doing good the court said the witness that testifies that it wasn't my son by the witness from overseas there testifies was irrevalant the witness stated the guy that robbed him had a cross on his face a mark above his eye my son has a teardrops the prosecutor said they not reliable but the own a store in USA so they brung a pair of shoes that looks like boats my son where a size 8 half they found the Gun registration a gun holsters there was nothing at my son place.the other guy was driving my son girlfriend car when all this came to a stop the other guy gave the police access to check the car this case is crazy the guy took a plea my son facing 26 years and the other guy doing 7 years the prosecutor stated my son was the ring leader the Judge stated the other guy took a plea the other did not ...

Posted by: yolanda ashford | Jul 29, 2016 12:46:02 PM

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