- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - As many as 150 Iowa juveniles imprisoned for felony convictions including kidnapping and attempted murder will get their sentences shortened by years as a result of an Iowa Supreme Court decision released Friday.

The court ruled that juveniles convicted of forcible felonies who had been resentenced from mandatory minimum terms to sentences with a set period of years should be given credit for good behavior at a much faster pace.

The decision is tied to the 2014 court ruling in the case of Andre Lyle Jr. in which the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles, following a similar ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. The Iowa court’s decision required juveniles to be resentenced to a specific period of time and made eligible for parole.

Prison officials continued to credit these juveniles for good behavior at the rate Iowa law specifies for forcible felonies with required minimum sentences. The law says people convicted of these crimes, which include attempted murder, second-degree kidnapping, robbery and vehicular homicide must serve at least 85 percent of their sentences after credited time for good behavior.

The court, however, said since they’ve struck down mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles they cannot be held to the same good behavior credit, instead they must be given an accelerate time off credit used for non-mandatory sentences which requires inmates to serve 45 percent of their sentence.

The result is a juvenile sentenced to 10 years for robbery, for example, will get out after 4 ½ years instead of 8 ½ years under the previous rules.

The court’s decision came in the case of two women, Shannon Breeden and Laura Hochmuth, who challenged their sentences.

Breeden was 16 when she was accused of helping her boyfriend kill a woman at a transient camp on the banks of Mississippi River near Davenport in 2002. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, was sentenced to 25 years in prison and eligible for release in 2023. The court’s ruling makes her eligible immediately.

Hochmuth was 16 when she and three other juveniles kidnapped, robbed and beat a Davenport pizza delivery man in 1997. She was convicted of second-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery, and second-degree robbery, sentenced to 50 years and eligible for release in July 2040. The court’s ruling could make her eligible in about four years.

The attorney representing the women did not immediately return a call.

The assistant Iowa Attorney General who represented the state declined to comment.

The unanimous opinion written by Justice Thomas Waterman said the court recognizes its interpretation of the law undermines the legislative intent to punish certain crimes more harshly.

“Inmates whose mandatory minimum sentences have been removed after Lyle will now accumulate good time faster, and thereby obtain earlier release,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, we cannot save the slower accumulation rate because it is contingent upon the mandatory minimum.”

Based on its conclusion the court also ruled Friday that two men convicted as juveniles are immediately eligible for release.

Shawn Allen James was 16 when he fired several shots at a man standing in front of his house in Des Moines in 1999. James was sentenced to 25 years for attempted murder and terrorism. His previous release date was 2023.

Eric Coleman was 17 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery for a 2009 incident in Burlington. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and was to be released in 2018 but the court’s ruling also makes him immediately eligible for release.

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