LINCOLN — The Nebraska Supreme Court has tossed out another life prison term for an Omaha man who killed as a juvenile.
The high court on Friday upheld Trevelle Taylor’s first-degree murder conviction for the 2009 shooting of Justin Gaines. Because Taylor was 17 at the time, however, the court ruled he is entitled to the possibility of a reduced sentence under a new state law written for juvenile killers.
At the time of Taylor’s conviction, state law required judges to automatically sentence juveniles convicted of first-degree murder to life in prison. But in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declared such mandatory sentencing laws unconstitutional because they prevent judges from weighing a juvenile’s maturity level and potential for rehabilitation.
The Nebraska court ordered Douglas County District Judge Marlon Polk to resentence Taylor under a new law that allows judges to choose sentences from 40 years to life in prison. The judge will have to consider a list of mitigating factors for juveniles spelled out in the new law.
Last week, the state Supreme Court made similar rulings in favor of three other juvenile killers: Juan Castaneda, Eric Ramirez and Douglas Mantich.
A total of 27 inmates are serving life for murders they committed under the age of 18, and many have filed appeals seeking to have their penalties declared invalid.
Taylor and another gunman fired at least 16 shots at Gaines on Sept. 19, 2009, as he sat in a car near 45th Street and Curtis Avenue.
Gaines, 20, died from a single shot to the back, which tests revealed was fired by the other gunman, Joshua Nolan.
Nolan, who was 19 at the time, also was convicted of first-degree murder for his role in the shooting and was sentenced to life.