The Louisiana Parole Board has granted release to a man convicted of killing another teenager during an argument over a medallion in 1985.
A panel of board members voted unanimously Tuesday to parole Glen Livas, who was 17 when he shot 18-year-old Charles Shelley to death.
Livas received an automatic sentence of life without chance of parole after an Orleans Parish jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. However, in 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed automatic sentences of life without parole for juveniles, citing their youth and underdeveloped brains as reasons to think they could turn their lives around later.
The court in 2016 made its decision retroactive for lifers like Livas, opening the door for him to argue that he should be released.
As of October, only about 8 percent of Louisiana's juvenile lifers had been granted parole. Several more are due to receive hearings in front of the Parole Board this month, however.
Appearing via video link from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Livas said he wished he could undo the fatal Aug. 28, 1985, shooting. He told board members he has since gained control over his anger.
According to witnesses, Livas was upset that his medallion had been stolen from him earlier in the day. When he came upon Shelley in the 1500 block of South Miro Street, Shelley said the medallion was stolen by someone who lived in a nearby housing development.
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Livas took out a gun and shot Shelley in the head, then fired a second time as Shelley lay on the ground, police said.
“The record indicates you shot the victim multiple times. Why would you do that?” asked board member Kenneth Loftin.
“I lost control of myself. I wasn’t in control of my anger. I didn’t have the skills I have now,” Livas said.
The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office did not seek to block Livas’ parole eligibility in Criminal District Court, as would have been permitted under state law. However, a prosecutor said Tuesday that the office opposed parole, citing the seriousness of the crime.
Livas’ attorney, Keith Nordyke, said his client did not fall into the small group of the “worst of the worst” of juvenile lifers that the Supreme Court said could still receive life sentences.
Nordyke said Livas obtained his GED in 1994, long before it became clear that he might eventually win release.
He also noted that the prison chose Livas to clean West Feliciana Parish schools under a janitorial contract it once had with the district.
“That should tell the board everything they need to know about Glen Livas,” he said.
Livas also had the support of Andrew Hundley, the executive director of the Louisiana Parole Project, which provides services to people recently released from long prison terms. Hundley was the state’s first juvenile lifer granted parole under the Supreme Court decision.
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Hundley said he had often squared off against Livas in basketball games on Angola’s grounds.
“You really get to tell a person’s true character when you’re playing sports,” he said. “It was always a real joy to play against him.”
Board members Keith Jones, Brennan Kelsey and Loftin voted for release.