Any inmate in New Hampshire who is currently serving a life sentence for first degree murder committed as a juvenile must be given a new sentence, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled Friday.
Citing a 2012 US Supreme Court ruling, mandatory life sentences for killers who were younger than 18 at the time of their crimes are unconstitutional, the court ruled unanimously, reported WMUR.
The ruling affects four men in particular, including Robert Tulloch, who is in prison for his role in killing Dartmouth University professors Half and Suzanne Zantop in 2001. Tulloch was 17 at the time of the murders.
The US Supreme Court based their ruling on scientific evidence that details clear differences between a minor’s brain and an adult’s, a fact that the court said prohibits a minor from being tried as an adult.
The ruling will be applied retroactively, reported The Boston Globe.
The other men who will be re-sentenced because of Friday’s ruling include Robert Dingman, Eduardo Lopez and Michael Soto, who all committed murder before they turned 18, according to WMUR.
The state Supreme Court reviewed the case after a trial court also ruled that the four should have new sentencing hearings. At those hearings, the four could potentially still be sentenced to life in prison without parole, but the court ruling means that such a sentence cannot be mandatory for juvenile offenders.
Tulloch’s co-defendant in 2002, also a juvenile at the time, was not affected by the ruling because he was not charged with first degree murder, according to The Globe.
Early this year, the family of Colleen Ritzer, the Danvers High School teacher killed in October, criticized the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to strike down life sentences for juveniles, calling it unjust and inhumane to victims and their families.