Calling him "irreparably corrupt," a prosecutor claims a man who was 16 in 1998 when he fatally shot another man in Baton Rouge while stealing a bicycle deserves nothing less than a life prison term without a chance at parole.
Montreal Jackson's attorney, however, says the U.S. Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that such a penalty is to be reserved for the "worst of the worst" juvenile offenders, and Jackson does not fit that description.
State District Judge Richard Anderson, who presided over Jackson's second-degree murder trial in 2001 and sentenced him to life in prison the same year, is scheduled to rule Oct. 25 on whether Jackson should be sentenced to life with or without parole eligibility. Jackson was convicted of killing 39-year-old Kerwin Taylor on North 36th Street in October 1998.
Anderson must make that call because the Supreme Court ruled in an Alabama case in 2012 that automatic life terms for juveniles are unconstitutional. The decision found that juvenile killers are entitled to hearings to try to demonstrate they are capable of reform, saying that judges have to take into account the individual circumstances of a defendant.
The high court, using a Baton Rouge case, made its 2012 decision retroactive in 2016, giving hope to Jackson and some 300 other Louisiana inmates serving life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles.
Anderson conducted Jackson's hearing in mid-August.
In a recent court filing, East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Dana Cummings argued the 36-year-old Jackson has said or done nothing during his 19 years behind bars to show he should be sentenced to anything other than life without parole. Cummings prosecuted Jackson.
While locked up, she noted, Jackson has been cited for 49 infractions, including five write-ups for defiance.
"We do not have to guess what 16 year old Montreal Jackson will become when his brain fully develops. His lack of character and self-control are crystal clear nineteen years later. Montreal Jackson has had the benefit of an individual sentencing hearing as required by law and is clearly irreparably corrupt," Cummings wrote.
In its 2012 ruling, the Supreme Court left it to lower courts to distinguish between "the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption" and "the juvenile offender whose crime reflects unfortunate yet transient immaturity."
Jackson's attorney, Mummi Ibrahim, maintained in a court filing earlier this year that Jackson, because he was just 16 at the time of Taylor's killing, is not the worst offender.
"Because of their inherent and substantial differences from adults and older teens, a 16-year-old adolescent cannot, as a matter of law, be classified as the worst offenders," she stated in objecting to a sentence a life without parole for Jackson.
Cummings gave this account to the jury at Jackson's trial: Taylor made the mistake of riding his gold bike into Jackson's neighborhood. Jackson told his friends, "Watch this," and ordered Taylor off the bike at gun point. Jackson shot himself in the arm during a struggle with Taylor. Furious about the gunshot wound, Jackson stood over Taylor and pumped bullets into him. Jackson rode off on the bike and later stashed it. Police found Jackson's blood and fingerprints on the bike when it was discovered five days later.
In her most recent court filing in the case, Cummings said Jackson shot Taylor five times. He was shot in the neck, chest and both legs.