The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld three consecutive life sentences for a man who was 16 when he killed three men during a robbery at a Minneapolis store in 2010.
Mahdi Hassan Ali argued that he deserved a future chance at parole because of his young age when the crime was committed. In Minnesota, 30 years of a life sentence must pass before an inmate is eligible for parole. Ali is serving three consecutive life sentences.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that such sentences for juveniles violated the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Ali is one of eight Minnesota killers who were teenagers when they committed the crimes that landed them in prison for life, and was the first in Minnesota to have his life sentence vacated.
Ali, who shot and killed three men at the Seward Market in Minneapolis, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in 2011 and was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of 30 years for two of the murders, and a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the third. When the state Supreme Court ruled the life sentence unconstitutional and sent the case back to district court, Judge Peter Cahill gave Ali three consecutive 30-year sentences, meaning the 23-year-old would be well over 100 years old by the time he is eligible for parole.
In its 20-page ruling, the justices wrote that the 2012 Supreme Court decision only addressed the imposition of a single life sentence, not multiple sentences such as in Ali’s case. The justices also said that their review of other juvenile offenders who killed multiple people indicated that Ali’s three consecutive sentences “do not unfairly exaggerate the criminality of his conduct.”
Justice Margaret Chutich wrote a dissenting opinion, which said children should be treated different then adults. She said the decision should be reversed and remanded back to district court to allow Ali to be eligible for parole after 30 years. He would be 47 at that time.
The U.S. Supreme Court determined that juveniles are prohibited from life sentences without parole unless the defendant belongs to the rarest of juvenile offenders, those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility, Chutich wrote.