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"For some juvenile offenders, a life sentence without parole is fair and just punishment," said Van Hollen. "Ninham was properly punished for a horrible crime."
MADISON - This morning, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals concluded that a life sentence without possibility of parole for a 14-year-old homicide defendant does not violate constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. The court rejected arguments made by Omer Ninham, who was convicted and sentenced for the 1998 murder of a 13-year-old boy. Ninham was 14 years and 10 months old when he committed the crime.
Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen praised the court of appeals's decision. "For some juvenile offenders, a life sentence without parole is fair and just punishment," said Van Hollen. "Ninham was properly punished for a horrible crime."
In 1998, Ninham and four others beat their victim, Zong Vang, chased him into a five-story parking ramp and threw him from the top of the ramp, causing his death. Ninham also threatened a judge and intimidated three witnesses after his arrest, including a threat to rape a woman and "make sure it's a slow death." In his circuit court motion for sentence modification, Ninham argued in pertinent part that United States Supreme Court decisions involving capital punishment for juvenile offenders supported his claim that his life sentence without possibility of parole was cruel and unusual punishment. Ninham also argued in pertinent part that recent research on adolescent brain development warranted resentencing. The court of appeals rejected these claims, holding that the "senseless and extreme brutality" of Ninham's crime fully justified the sentence imposed. The court of appeals also concluded that the sentencing court was aware of the behavioral differences between adults and juveniles when it set Ninham's sentence.
The decision of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals appears on the court's website:
Assistant Attorney General Sally Wellman represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.