A man from central Pennsylvania who was 16 when he committed murder had no problem when his life sentence without parole was changed to 38 years of life, ruled a state appeals court.
The Superior Court panel decision means Daron Nesbit still has about 15 years to serve behind bars before he can be considered for parole.
Nesbit, now 40, has been jailed since his arrest for a murder in March 1997 in York County. Police said Nesbit shot a man twice during a brawl in a parking lot. A county jury found Nesbit guilty of first degree murder.
Fifteen years after the homicide, the United States Supreme Court ruled that life sentences without parole were unconstitutional for killers of minors.
Nesbit was among hundreds of those accused to benefit from this decision. County President Judge Maria Musti Cook imposed her revised sentence in July 2017.
On appeal in state court, Nesbit argued that Cook failed to consider his rehabilitation needs and incorrectly based his decision on a “perceived lack of remorse” on his part.
The Superior Court rejected these arguments in an opinion from Judge Jacqueline O. Shogan, who concluded that Cook had sufficiently “set out the reasons why a longer sentence was inappropriate and the justification why a shorter sentence would be inappropriate”.
Shogan noted that prosecutors had asked for a 50-year life sentence.
She also noted that while the law does not apply to Nesbit’s case, the legislature has passed a mandate requiring youth 15 years of age and older who are convicted of first or second degree murder after the June 25, 2012 be sentenced to at least 35 years to life. Such a ceiling does not apply to older cases.
Shogan also noted that judges have the option of reimposing life sentences without parole on killers of minors who are considered perpetually incorrigible.