- Associated Press - Friday, February 17, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Two women who were involved in killings when they were juveniles must pay the $150,000 in restitution required by state law in homicide cases, the Iowa Supreme Court said Friday.

The women claim in an appeal of their sentences that the restitution is excessive and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. A majority of the court in a 4-3 decision found the restitution constitutional.

“The minimum restitution award of $150,000 is high, but not grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the offenses covered under the statute,” the court said.

The justices determined that the diminished culpability of youth does not make it unconstitutional for the Legislature to mandate a $150,000 restitution award.

Justice Brent Appel, joined by David Wiggins and Daryl Hecht, disagreed with the court majority. Appel said he would send the case back to a judge to for reconsideration.



“Even offenders who commit serious criminal offenses cannot become wage slaves upon their release or encounter financial burdens so onerous that the offender ends up with an extended term of incarceration arising from inability to pay an excessive fine,” he wrote.

One challenge came from Shannon Breeden, who at age 16 helped her boyfriend attack Paula Heiser at a Davenport homeless camp in 2002, resulting in Heiser’s death.

Breeden pleaded guilty to attempted murder. She was sentenced to 25 years in prison but was released in January 2016 after 13 years when the courts struck down mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles and ordered judges to weigh a defendant’s age, maturity, family life and other factors in new sentence hearings.

The second challenge came from Daimonay Richardson, who was 15 when she and her boyfriend stabbed a man to death in Cedar Rapids in June 2013 during a robbery. She also appealed her $150,000 restitution order as part of her sentence on second-degree murder.

Richardson was sentenced to 25 years in prison but is currently scheduled to be released in March 2025.

Their attorneys, state appellate public defenders, argued the court should consider the same factors the courts have raised when reconsidering juvenile sentences in assessing restitution. They said juveniles imprisoned at a young age are less likely to find employment with adequate pay to satisfy the restitution orders.

Assistant Attorney General Tyler Buller argued that the restitution is designed to make people assume responsibility for taking the life of another and part of that is paying money to the victim’s estate.

Richardson’s attorney, Theresa Wilson, said the court ruling leaves open the possibility juveniles may challenge on different constitutional grounds payment plans set up by corrections officials if the plans don’t offer a reasonable ability to pay.

An attorney general spokesman declined to comment on the ruling.

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This version of the story corrects to state that Shannon Breeden was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison.

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