A 17-year-old was found guilty of murder for the stabbing death of another teen in 2009 and sentenced to life without parole, but the ruling was appealed. Dajuan Alridge's attorneys appealed the 2015 conviction on the grounds that sentencing a minor to life in prison without parole is unconstitutional. Alridge, now 25, was found guilty of stabbing 15-year-old James McKenzie 49 times, wrapped his head in duct tape, and left his body underneath a plastic mattress bag.
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The horrific crime occurred when a 17-year-old Alridge and another 17-year-old named Dennis Lewis lured McKenzie into an abandoned house by promising to smoke marijuana with him. Alridge then stabbed the teen nearly 50 times and the two boys left his lifeless body in the abandoned home. McKenzie was not found until six days later when relatives searching for him found his body. Lewis ultimately pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter and was sentenced to 40 years in prison without the possibility of early release.
Alridge was convicted of second-degree murder in an 11-1 vote by a New Orleans jury in October 2015. Following a Miller hearing, which is required for defendants in Louisiana who were under 18 at the time their crime was committed, he was then sentenced to life without the possibility of parole by Criminal District Judge Byron C. Williams in June of 2016. A high court that year decided in Miller v. Alabama that a mandatory life sentence without parole is unconstitutional for defendants under the age of 18. During Alridge's Miller hearing, prosecutors and defense attorney's presented evidence to help the judge make a decision on whether to impose a life sentence with or without the possibility of parole.
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"It was a very heinous crime," Judge Williams. "It does not represent the conduct of anyone with an impulsive behavior. The court finds this crime was horrific, callous, calculated and totally outweighs any testimony about a chaotic childhood." The sentence was taken to Louisiana's Fourth Circuit of Appeal and asked for a new trial and reconsideration of Alridge's sentence on the grounds that errors were made during the jury selection process, at the trial, and during sentencing.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Murderer Dajuan Alridge's conviction, life-without-parole sentence affirmed <a href="https://twitter.com/NewOrleansDA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NewOrleansDA</a> <a href="https://t.co/A0FYUvJlCC">pic.twitter.com/A0FYUvJlCC</a></p>— Orleans DA’s office (@NewOrleansDA) <a href="https://twitter.com/NewOrleansDA/status/999684152038449153?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 24, 2018</a></blockquote>
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Judges Paula A. Brown, Terri F. Love and Dennis R. Bagneris unanimously rejected Alridge's appeal and upheld the life sentence without parole. District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said the sentence handed out by Judge Williams was not only constitutional but it "is entirely befitting the defendant in this case." Cannizzaro added, "The brutality of this murder shocks the senses and serves to remind us all that evil is not limited by age."
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