- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - Attorneys for Barry Beach, who is serving 100 years without the possibility of parole for the 1979 beating death of a high school classmate on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, are asking the Montana Supreme Court to order him resentenced with consideration for the fact that he was 17 at the time of the offense.

A petition filed Thursday argues Beach’s sentence in the death of Kimberly Nees is the equivalent of a life sentence and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, the Great Falls Tribune (http://gftrib.com/12s3KA1) reports.

A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires judges to take into consideration a defendant’s age, maturity level, home environment, circumstances of the offense and the possibility of rehabilitation when sentencing juvenile offenders.

There is nothing in the record to indicate the court considered any of those factors in sentencing Beach, Centurion Ministries argues.

In the alternative to resentencing, Beach’s attorneys ask that the parole restriction be removed, allowing the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole to determine whether he should be released.

Beach, 52, has maintained his innocence and argued the confession used to convict him was in 1983 was coerced. He has sought to overturn the conviction, sought a new trial and is now asking for a new sentence.

A District Court judge ruled in November 2011 that Beach deserved a new trial based on testimony that a group of girls might have been involved in the killing. Beach was released from prison, but returned in May 2013 after a divided Montana Supreme Court overturned the lower court ruling.

The parole board has rejected bids for executive clemency four times in the Beach case, most recently in June, in part because Beach has not accepted responsibility for killing Nees.

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Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com

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