Dupure insists she was not in the apartment at all, but waited in the restaurant, oblivious to the events unfolding, while Blevins went off on his own. What is certain is that Blevins murdered the old woman, stabbing her several times and strangling her. Under police questioning he admitted it, saying he acted alone. But shortly before he went on trial he changed his evidence and put Dupure alongside him at the scene of the murder. In return, the prosecution agreed he should be given the lesser charge of second-degree murder and avoid lifelong incarceration. Under cross-examination, he conceded to the jury, "I never had intentions to pin it on her until I ran out of options."
Blevins got 20 to 50 years, with the hope of reducing his sentence through good behaviour. Dupure got life without parole, with no forensic evidence tying her to the crime and entirely on the strength of Blevins' testimony.
On the night of the murder, Boyd's mother, high on drugs, met him at a Burger King and asked him for the keys to his father's flat, saying she was going to kill him. He handed over the keys. The next morning Boyd went to his father's flat and, hearing no one inside, forced open the door. Kevin senior was slumped in his easy chair. He had been bludgeoned with a baseball bat and stabbed 23 times.
Boyd was interrogated by police for eight hours. He told them he had handed over the keys and that was all. Then a second team of officers questioned him. They turned off the tape recorder, and kept repeating to him the mantra, "The truth will set you free."
"Every time I tried to tell them what happened, they shouted me down. 'No, you didn't do that!' This sounds totally irrational, I know, but after hours of that, I thought if I told them what they wanted they would let me out and it would all go away." He confessed to having been the one to stab his father 23 times, and was given life without parole.
Donald Logan. Prisoner 132850. Height: 5ft 5in. Weight: 135lb. Date of birth: June 23 1954. He was tried and convicted twice for the murder of a paperboy, Thomas Eldridge, who went to his school. They were both 16. At the first trial, Logan, who is black, was found guilty by 12 white jurors. His lawyers appealed on the grounds that the racial composition of the jury was prejudicial, and a retrial was ordered. In the second trial there were 11 white jurors, including two who were members of whites-only organisations. The 12th juror was black, but during the course of the hearing it emerged that she was the aunt of the prosecution's key witness who was giving evidence against Logan in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Logan's case illustrates two key statistics about juvenile life without parole. Of the 307 prisoners in Michigan on that sentence, 69% are black, compared with 15% of the state's population as a whole. A study by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty also found that more than one in four of the juveniles incarcerated for ever was convicted of "felony murder" - serious crimes during which someone is killed yet where the juvenile did not personally or directly cause the death.
The prosecution case against Logan was that he identified the paperboy to a gang of his elder brother's friends who had robbed Eldridge the previous week and wanted to prevent him giving evidence against them. Logan was alleged to have acted as lookout when two of the gang members shot the boy. It was never alleged he had pulled the trigger himself or even held a gun. "I killed nobody," Logan said. "The guys asked me who was the paperboy. I was the one who pointed him out. That's all I did."
Also, if 15% of the population is black, what are the odds of two consecutive juries, one with 0/12 and one with 1/12 black people?
LaBelle has been careful to involve victims of juvenile crime and their families in the debate about changing the law, and several victims' families have privately offered their support. "They say that what happened was horrible and has devastated them, but they do not want the knowledge that the child who committed the crime will stay in jail for ever to rest on their conscience."
Part of me wants to think that the possible exploitation of cheap labor has no relation to sentencing laws. The rest just hurts.
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