ACA.supremecourt.070419

The state is seeking a life prison term without parole for a Baton Rouge man convicted more than two decades ago in the 1992 execution-style slaying of an LSU freshman after a carjacking on campus.

Dale Dwayne Craig was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1994 and condemned to die for the killing of Kipp Earl Gullett, but the U.S. Supreme Court turned his death sentence into a life term when it barred the execution of juveniles in 2005.

Craig, 42, was one week shy of his 18th birthday when he fatally shot Gullett, 18, of Pineville. Gullett was abducted at gunpoint from the Kirby Smith Hall dormitory parking lot on Sept. 15, 1992, and killed at an isolated construction site on South Kenilworth Parkway. He was beaten, pistol-whipped and shot several times in the head after begging for his life, according to trial testimony.

In 2012, the Supreme Court declared automatic life terms for juveniles unconstitutional and said they are entitled to hearings to try to show they are capable of reform. The high court made its 2012 decision retroactive in 2016, giving hope to Craig and some 300 other Louisiana inmates serving life for crimes they committed as juveniles.

The Louisiana Attorney General's Office earlier this month filed a notice in Craig's case of its intent to seek a life sentence without possibility of parole. Brandon Fremin, chief of the office's criminal division, said last year after a hearing in the case that Craig deserves a sentence of life without parole.

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Craig's attorney, John Landis, stressed Wednesday that the issue in the case is whether a juvenile offender will be given a parole hearing at some time in the future after serving a long sentence, not whether he will be released.

"The premise of the Supreme Court rulings is that all child offenders must be given the opportunity to demonstrate that they are not irredeemable, but are capable of rehabilitation," he said. "I think that determination is best left to the State Parole Board, which is in a better position than the Attorney General or a trial court to make it."

Craig's next court date is in Oct. 4. State District Judge Bonnie Jackson is presiding over the case.

Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law in June a bill that pares back life without parole sentences for juveniles so it's no longer allowable unless it's a first-degree murder case. Under the new law, most juveniles sentenced to life would be granted a shot a parole after serving 25 years.

Craig was one of four people convicted in Gullett's killing. They ranged in age from 16 to 19 at the time. Prosecutors said Craig wanted Gullett's Ford Bronco.

James Conrad Lavigne was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life. Roy Maurer, who drove Gullett's vehicle to and from the murder scene, and Zebbie Berthelot pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received 20-year prison terms. Maurer and Berthelot testified against Craig.


Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.