September 5, 2015
By Rudy Miller
A panel of Pennsylvania appellate court judges ruled a life sentence without the possibility of parole will remain in place for a Phillipsburg man who committed murder when he was 14.
Batts, 24, testified he was ordered to “put in work” and shoot Edwards by Vernon Bradley, a leader in the Bloods gang.
Batts was convicted at trial and sentenced to life without parole, but he appealed in 2014 after the U.S. Supreme Court decided teenagers shouldn’t receive mandatory life sentences due to their ability to change and mature.
Northampton County Judge Michael Koury determined in 2014 that the life sentence was appropriate. Superior Court judges Cheryl Lynn Allen and Sallie Updyke Mundy agreed with him in the ruling handed down Friday.
They determined Batts’ right to due process wasn’t usurped and that Koury did not abuse his discretion with the sentence.
Senior Judge James J. Fitzgerald III dissented, however. He determined Koury discounted Batts’ “youthful attributes and susceptibility to peer pressure.”
“The court failed to recognize the inherent possibility and record evidence of a 14-year-old offender’s potential for rehabilitation,” Fitzgerald wrote.