Alaska court is considering 135-year sentence for teenage girl

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A lower court will reconsider the 135-year sentence given four decades ago to a then 14-year-old girl for her part in the shooting of three people in Anchorage.

When Winona Fletcher was convicted in 1986, she became the youngest woman ever convicted of murder in Alaska. reported the Anchorage Daily News on Thursday. The Alaska Court of Appeals returned the case for reconsideration because the judge failed to consider her prospects for rehabilitation.

“My hope for Winona is that this gives her an opportunity to be tried again,” Whitney Glover, an attorney who handled Fletcher’s appeal, told the Anchorage newspaper.

Fletcher and her then 19-year-old boyfriend Cordell Boyd killed 69-year-old Tom Faccio, his 70-year-old wife Ann Faccio, and their 76-year-old sister Emilia Elliott in 1985. The case attracted a lot of media attention.

Despite Fletcher’s age and lack of a criminal record, a judge said she should be tried as an adult because rehabilitation was unlikely for her. She was convicted after submitting a no-contest plea.

The couple’s daughters later formed Victims for Justice. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach her Thursday were not immediately successful, and emails were sent to the organization and the Alaska Department of Justice asking for comment.

The appeals court said in Friday’s ruling that a series of decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court over the past 18 years have reshaped the law on sentencing children for serious crimes, ultimately ruling that “children should be constitutionally tried differently from adults “.

Courts have found that adolescents are more reckless, impulsive and risk-taking than adults and are unable to extricate themselves from criminal environments.

“The Alaska Constitution requires that a sentencing court must consider a juvenile offender’s youth and associated characteristics before sentencing a juvenile convicted as an adult to the functional equivalent of life imprisonment without parole,” the appeals court’s opinion read Alaska. “We further conclude that, assuming this new constitutional rule applies retrospectively, the defendant in this case, Winona M. Fletcher, is entitled to a resentencing that has due regard to her youth and associated characteristics.” “

While acknowledging that she had committed “undeniably horrific crimes,” the court said the sentencing judge also failed to take into account her messy childhood of abuse and neglect, which led to her becoming a sex worker at age 13 .

At the time, she was a runaway, a child sexual abuse victim and in a relationship with a grown man who had been drugging her since she was 13, her attorney wrote in the court filing.

The Alaska Supreme Court will reconsider Fletcher’s sentence, considering her youth and vulnerability at the time of the crime and whether she had prospects for rehabilitation.

“So there’s an opportunity to ask the question — which is raised in the case — if she’s ‘destroyed,’ which is basically something that couldn’t be determined at the age of 14,” Glover said .

Fletcher, now 53, gave birth twice in prison. Boyd also remains incarcerated in Alaska.

Fletcher’s case could also call into question the validity of other Alaskan youths serving life sentences. The decision said only three other youths were sentenced to over 99 years in prison, but others received long prison terms.

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