SCOTUS ruling could allow parole for teen convicted killers - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Supreme Court ruling could allow parole for teen convicted killers

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

The US Supreme Court issued a decision Monday about sentencing handed down to juvenile offenders.  It ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences are unconstitutional for children 17 and under, because it violates the 8th amendment as "cruel and unusual" punishment.

The decision could impact a couple of major cases, including one tried in Waterloo almost 20 years ago.

Ruth Ann Veal was convicted of the 1993 murder of Catherine Haynes and sentenced to life-without-parole.  While the Supreme Court ruling is no guarantee Veal could be eligible for release, it is possible.

And for those who vividly remember Veal's brutal crime, it's a tough thought to bear.

The 100 block of Lovejoy in Waterloo is now your typical quiet neighborhood.  But nearly two decades ago, it was the site of a brutal crime.

66-year-old Catherine Haynes was stabbed 23 times in her Lovejoy Street home.  Chris Murphy lived across the street from Haynes at the time and vividly recalls the ordeal.

"My husband and I were the last ones to see Catherine alive, except for Veal.  It was just so shocking to hear such an innocent lady to be attacked so brutal," said Murphy.

Just days after the murder, 14-year-old runaway Ruth Ann Veal was arrested, and then later convicted of killing Haynes.  She was sentenced to life-without-parole.

In 2002, KWWL interviewed a then 23-year-old Veal at the Mitchellville Correctional Institute for Women.

"You've got to forgive yourself everyday you wake up," said Veal in 2002.

At the time, Veal also said she felt a life-without-parole sentence was too harsh for a teenager. But with the Supreme Court's ruling Monday, Veal's continuing legal fight could have new hope for parole release.

But Black Hawk County Attorney Tom Ferguson, who prosecuted the Vcase, says the high court's ruling doesn't guarantee anything.  It only says states can't mandate life-without-parole sentences for juveniles.

"It's going to be some time before we sort this all out. It's going to be sorted out through the courts. And, ultimately, I think will be sorted out somewhat through the legislature when we get some guidance from the courts on this decision's impact on juveniles as well as our own Supreme Court's decision on the impact of life without parole on juveniles," Ferguson said.

For Chris Murphy, it's unfathomable that Veal could ever be released after what happened on her old street all those years ago.

"I think she'll kill again.  So I would hope if she does come up for parole, she would not get it.  But every time she's eligible, we'd just be holding our breaths, 'Is she going to get it?  Is someone going to give it to her?' Oh my gosh," Murphy said.

Attorneys with the Equal Justice Initiative representing Ruth Ann Veal did not return our call.

Veal has a status hearing on her case on July 19th.   County Attorney Tom Ferguson expects many of the issues brought forward with the Supreme Court's ruling will take center stage at that hearing.

In addition to the Veal case, the Supreme Court's ruling could also impact another Iowa teen convicted of murder.

Edgar Concepcion, Jr. was handed two life-sentences in the 2009 death of his three-year-old cousin.  He was 14 when he killed the girl.   In multiple appeals, his attorney's argued that life without parole for a juvenile was "cruel and unusual" punishment.

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