WILKES-BARRE – The second of two men convicted in the 1999 shotgun slayings of two people is seeking to overturn his sentence based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder are unconstitutional.
David Lee Hanley argues the court ruling should apply to him, even though he was not a juvenile at the time of his crime.
Hanley, now 31, was 18 when police say he and then 15-year-old Kenneth Crawford shot and killed Diana Algar and Jose Molina at the Paradise Campground in Hollenback Township in July 1999.
Crawford, who is also serving a life sentence, filed an appeal earlier this year seeking a new sentencing hearing based on the Supreme Court's ruling in June in the case of Miller v. Alabama.
In that case, the nation's highest court said a mandatory life sentence for a defendant who was under age 18 at the time of his or her crime constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
Hanley is invoking the same case, even though he was 18 years and 3 months old at the time of the crime.
In his appeal, which Hanley authored himself, he argues the Miller case should apply to him under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, which ensures similarly situated defendants be treated alike.
Hanley cites prior court rulings that have found a juvenile's brain differs from an adult's in several key areas, including a lack of maturity and underdeveloped sense of responsibility and impulse control. Those factors can be considered in determining a juvenile's degree of culpability.
Hanley maintains the court should allow some deference to consider those factors even after a defendant turns 18.
The qualities that distinguish juveniles from adults do not disappear when an individual turns 18, Hanley said in the appeal.
Assistant District Attorney James McMonagle on Wednesday filed a response to the appeal. The brief does not address the issue of whether the Miller case applies to Hanley. Rather, it focuses on the argument that the Miller ruling should not be applied retroactively to defendants already serving life sentences.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court heard argument on that issue in September on two cases out of Northampton and Philadelphia counties. The court's decision, which is pending, could impact as many as 480 cases statewide, authorities have said.