New trial for teen sentenced to life without parole?

July 31, 2010 9:23:41 PM PDT
A young man sentenced to life in prison when he was just 15 years old may now be getting a second chance. After spending four years behind bars for capital murder, a now 19-year-old man could be getting a new trial thanks to a ruling from the court of appeals.

The news of this decision comes just five weeks after lawyers argued the case. The appeal means rather than sit behind bars until he dies, Litrey Turner is getting a second chance.

His family could hardly contain their emotions Saturday.

"I just thank God for everything," said Saqouia Turner.

She had just been told brother has a shot at a new trial and at life outside prison walls.

In 2006, Turner was just 15 years old when a Galveston County jury convicted him of capital murder for his involvement in the shooting death of Phuong Lam, a Dickinson convenience store owner. While Turner didn't pull the trigger, he was automatically sentenced to life without parole.

"Life without parole doesn't mean you're gonna get paroled in 50 years, doesn't mean that. It means he dies in prison," said attorney Eric Davis.

According to the appeals court's opinion, there was evidence to show Turner was only guilty of robbery and not capital murder. The gunman in the case, identified as Andrew "Young Money" Brown, was sentenced to 40 years in prison, eligible for parole in 20 years; a disparity Davis was determined to fight.

"The criminal justice system works that way, unfortunately," he said. "Often times, if you don't have enough resources, you're not able to bring much to the table."

It's highly unlikely, perhaps even impossible, for Turner to be sentenced to life in prison again. That's because last September, Texas repealed its life without parole law, making it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life sentences without an opportunity for parole.

"Fifteen-year-olds are not adults. Neither are 16- or 17-year-olds," criminal defense attorney Brian Wice said. "And for the people out there that hear me and say that's typical defense lawyer nonsense, God forbid it should happen to your son or your daughter."

Wice hopes Turner's case will help 19 other Texas teenagers currently serving out life sentences without parole, even though the law no longer exists.

Brenda Turner just wants the chance to take care of her basketball star at home again.

"He was taken from me when he was just 15," she told us. "I should be still taking care of him, buying his favorite foods, stocking up on cereal and milk."

Litrey still doesn't know the news. His family hopes he'll call so they can tell him directly.

The Galveston County DA's Office picks things up from here. We got an email from them Saturday night. They say they look forward to prosecuting this case again as capital murder.


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