- Associated Press - Monday, June 16, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear arguments from a man that his 1998 sentence to life without parole for the death of child is unconstitutional.

Glen Conley Jr.’s was convicted in Pike County of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1998. Prosecutors said Conley drowned a 3-year-old child during a paddle boat excursion at Percy Quin State Park in 1994. Prosecutors said he first kidnapped the girl to set up the murder.

Defense attorneys argued the paddle boat ride was part of a family excursion and the child’s drowning was an accident.

Conley’s conviction and sentence was upheld in 2001 and several post-conviction appeals have been denied.

Conley’s latest argument is he was wrongly sentenced. Conley said a life without parole sentence was unconstitutional because the option didn’t exist in Mississippi’s capital murder law at the time.

Life without parole became an option in the capital murder statute in July 1994. Inmates who were indicted for crimes that occurred before that date were not subject to the penalty, the courts have ruled.

Conley argues the crime for which he was convicted occurred in May 1994 before the change in the sentencing options.

Conley is asking the Supreme Court to order him re-sentenced to life in prison, which would make her eligible for parole consideration.

Prosecutors said Conley picked up his girlfriend, the girl and several other children in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, for a picnic in 1994 and took them to the public park across the state line near McComb, Mississippi.

Prosecutors said Conley had taken out more than $200,000 in life insurance on the toddler, whom he believed to be his daughter. There was no proof offered that the girl was his child.

At his trial, prosecutors said Conley took Whitney Berry against her will to Percy Quin State Park in Pike County and held her underwater after removing her life jacket.

In upholding his conviction in 2001, the Mississippi Supreme Court said the child and her mother were kidnapped at the time Conley took them in the paddle boat beyond the boundary ropes 3,000 feet from shore over their protests.

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