Man re­ceives life for killing at 16

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DAVE HUGHES

VAN BUREN — A Craw­ford County judge sen­tenced Tony Ray on Wed­nes­day to life in prison with the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role in 30 years for the 1997 mur­der he com­mit­ted when he was 16 years old.

In sen­tenc­ing Ray, now 36, Cir­cuit Judge Gary Cot­trell pro­nounced Act 539 of 2017 con­sti­tu­tional and retroac­tive to other youth­ful of­fend­ers who were sen­tenced to life with­out pa­role for cap­i­tal-mur­der con­vic­tions.

Com­pli­cat­ing Ray’s case is that he also was con­victed Sept. 20, 1999, of theft and was sen­tenced to 20 years on that charge to run con­sec­u­tively to his mur­der sen­tence. Pros­e­cut­ing At­tor­ney Marc McCune said when Ray’s mur­der sen­tence was va­cated in June 2016, Arkansas Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion of­fi­cials be­gan run­ning the clock on his theft sen­tence.

In pass­ing sen­tence on Ray, Cot­trell granted a mo­tion by McCune, who ar­gued that the emer­gency clause of Act 539 of 2017, also called the Fair Sen­tenc­ing of Minors Act, retroac­tively pro­vided that ju­ve­niles sen­tenced to life with­out pa­role for cap­i­tal-mur­der con­vic­tions would be el­i­gi­ble for pa­role af­ter serv­ing 30 years of their sen­tences.

The act also pro­vides that ju­ve­niles con­victed of first-de­gree mur­der would be el­i­gi­ble for pa­role af­ter serv­ing 20 years.

“[T]hat this act is im­me­di­ately nec­es­sary in or­der to make those per­sons el­i­gi­ble for pa­role in or­der to be in com­pli­ance with Mont­gomery v. Louisiana,” part of the emer­gency clause read.

Mont­gomery v. Louisiana, Cot­trell said dur­ing the hearing, was a U.S. Supreme Court rul­ing last year that said sen­tenc­ing hear­ings were not nec­es­sary for cases that fell un­der its Miller v. Alabama de­ci­sion.

In Miller v. Alabama in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled it was un­con­sti­tu­tional to sen­tence youth­ful of­fend­ers to prison for life with­out the chance of ob­tain­ing pa­role.

Ray’s at­tor­ney Kent McLe­more of Fayetteville ar­gued that his client should get a sen­tenc­ing hearing in or­der to com­ply with Miller v. Alabama.

Ac­cord­ing to Miller v. Alabama, juries should con­sider ag­gra­vat­ing and mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors be­fore hand­ing down a sen­tence, he ar­gued in a court brief. He also ar­gued that Ray should be sen­tenced un­der the law as it ex­isted at the time of his con­vic­tion, which would be a prison term of 10 to 40 years or life, not just life.

McLe­more also ar­gued that Act 539 ap­plied only to youth­ful of­fend­ers who were sen­tenced on cap­i­tal-mur­der charges since pas­sage of the act and that it was not retroac­tive.

But Cot­trell said he placed weight on the Mont­gomery v. Louisiana rul­ing that said leg­is­la­tures need not hold sen­tenc­ing hear­ings to com­ply with the Supreme Court’s rul­ing in Miller v. Alabama.

Mont­gomery v. Louisiana sup­ported Act 539, he said. The clar­ity of the case, he said, made him con­fi­dent the act was con­sti­tu­tional.

He said he thought of putting off a rul­ing on Ray’s case and let­ting the Arkansas Supreme Court rule on Act 539’s con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity. But he said he was con­fi­dent in the Mont­gomery v. Louisiana de­ci­sion.

Ray and Michael Hinkston, who was 20 in 1997, were ac­cused of break­ing into Lisa Gail Lewis’ home in Van Buren, wait­ing all after­noon for her to re­turn home and then shoot­ing her to death with a shotgun. She was shot in the neck, the right hand and stom­ach.

In a state­ment he gave po­lice af­ter his ar­rest, Ray said he shot Lewis once with one shotgun, which then jammed. He used an­other shotgun to fire two more times at Lewis, reload­ing af­ter each shot, as she pleaded for her life and re­cited the Lord’s Prayer.

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