A judge on Monday upheld a life sentence without parole for a Chicago man sent to prison as a teenager more than two decades ago, in the first Illinois re-sentencing after a Supreme Court decision to outlaw mandatory life sentences for juveniles.
The 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the door for states to choose whether to apply the new rules retroactively, and Illinois was among the 10 states that decided to do so.
This raised hopes for Adolfo Davis, who was given natural life in prison for his involvement in a 1990 gang-related homicide when he was 14.
But reading her decision to a packed courtroom, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Angela Petrone said Davis “was not an innocent child... He was a willing shooter.”
She also disputed testimony that he had rehabilitated himself during his time in prison.
Davis, 38, wiped tears from his eyes as police escorted him out of the courtroom.
His attorneys said they would appeal.
"We believe the sentence she re-imposed is disproportionate and unconstitutional," Davis' attorney Patricia Soung told journalists outside the courtroom.
In Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court said sentencing should consider a child's age, family and home environment, role in the crime and potential for change.
Davis grew up in poverty, sharing an apartment with an illiterate grandmother, according to his attorneys. He has changed since being behind bars, counseling youth to stay away from gangs, they added. He also paints and writes poetry.
Davis' attorneys said the court did not hear all of the evidence. They also said Petrone questioned proven data about the maturity and impetuousness of youths, findings that were used by the Supreme Court in its 2012 ruling.
"These are not speculative. They are science," Soung said.
"I really think he deserves a second chance," Davis' sister Traci Milton told reporters before leaving the courthouse.
The Cook County State’s Attorney Office said in a written statement that it was pleased with the court’s decision.
Illinois has about 80 other inmates who are eligible for re-sentencing, though the defendants must file a motion to the court with their request.
Six states have decided that Miller v. Alabama should not be applied retroactively. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the retroactivity issue in June.