Breaking News: SADO Obtains Term of Years Sentence for Dakotah Eliason after Miller v. Alabama Resentencing Hearing

Judge Scott Schofield of Berrien County Denied the Prosecutor’s Request for a LWOP Sentence

On May 28, 2015, Judge Scott Schofield of the Berrien County Circuit Court ruled that SADO client Dakotah Eliason did not deserve a life without parole sentence and that he is entitled to be resentenced to a term of years. Dakotah, convicted of first-degree murder in August of 2010 for the tragic killing of his grandfather, was sentenced to mandatory life without parole following his conviction. While his case was on direct appeal, the United States Supreme Court decided Miller v Alabama, 132 S Ct 2455; 183 L Ed 2d 407 (2012), holding that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles is unconstitutional. Dakotah was granted a resentencing where the trial court was instructed to weigh numerous factors to determine if a life without parole sentence was appropriate. SADO attorney Jonathan Sacks (now of the Michigan Indigence Defense Commission), along with SADO attorney Jacqueline Ouvry, SADO investigator Linda Borus, and mitigation consultant Katherine Root, presented compelling and significant testimony at the resentencing hearing, allowing the court to find that Dakotah is not the “‘rare’ and ‘uncommon’ child ‘whose crime represents irreparable corruption.’”  The court was particularly persuaded by the testimony of Dr. Daniel Keating, a University of Michigan professor specializing in adolescent cognitive development, who testified to the imbalance of adolescent brain development and how that imbalance can explain bad decision-making often associated with teen. The court noted:

In summary, the developmental disparity between an adolescent male’s feeling brain and thinking brain can help explain defendant’s horrific choice to kill his grandfather. This imbalance, according to Dr. Keating, disappears once a young man moves into his mid-twenties and his thinking brain catches up. That, plus the paucity of scientific evidence to support a conclusion that a juvenile can be a beyond-redemption psychopath, militate against an LWOP sentence for defendant.

The court found that a term of years sentence was appropriate as it “takes into account concerns for the community’s safety but also allows for the possibility that the defendant—only 14 years old at the time of his crime—may fully rehabilitate.” Dakotah will be resentenced to a minimum sentence between 25 to 40 years and no more than 60 years imprisonment.