Missouri murderer hopeful new SCOTUS decision will free him

5 months 2 weeks 1 day ago June 20, 2016 Jun 20, 2016 Monday, June 20 2016 Monday, June 20, 2016 5:22:00 PM CDT in News
By: Andrew Hebert, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA — The Southeast Missourian's front-page headline read, "Shot Grandmother: Teenager's sentences in killing sustained" on Wednesday, October 30, 2002.

Farther down on the page it explained, "A state appeals court upheld the convictions of a teenager who murdered his grandmother and later attempted to burn down their Jackson home in order to cover up the crime."

It was a heinous crime and, at the time of the offense, then 16-year-old Joshua Allen Wolf was going to have to pay the price for his actions.

Sentenced to two concurrent life sentences plus seven years for the May 6, 2000 shooting death of Carol Jean Lindley and related crimes, his fate seemed decided.

The court wrote, "He will never be eligible for parole."

Until now...

On January 25, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 in Montgomery v. Louisiana, in favor of eliminating life without parole sentences for juveniles.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, "Prisoners like Montgomery must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored." 

Montgomery v. Louisiana decided mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders violates the 8th Amendment on "cruel and unusual punishment."

So, what does this mean for Missouri?

KOMU 8 News reached out to Missouri State Public Defender Greg Mermelstein to find out. Mermelstein is the deputy director of specialty practices and resources specializing in juvenile work. 

Mermelstein said the ruling in Montgomery v. Louisiana has reaffirmed that more than 80 Missouri inmates sentenced to life in prison as teenagers could have a chance at freedom.

Mermelstein said, "In Montgomery, the Supreme Court held that juveniles who have been sentenced to life without parole in the past are entitled to have either a sentencing hearing or entitled to be considered for parole eligibility."

But there is a problem... 

"Sen. Bob Dixon said Missouri has no alternative sentence that's constitutional for minors convicted of first-degree murder other than life in prison without parole," according to the Associated Press.

Missouri law says the penalty for first-degree murder must be death or life in prison without parole. The Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Roper v. Simmons forbids executing juveniles, and the Miller v. Alabama decision in 2012 outlaws automatic life sentences for youthful offenders. There's the catch. 

Mermelstein explained, Missouri is in a temporary state of limbo when it comes to sentencing. Juveniles convicted on first degree murder can no longer be given life without parole, which was the state's previous sentence. 

As a result, the Missouri Supreme Court, the Attorney General's office and state lawmakers are scrambling to put a sentence in place that meets the new Constitutional standard. 

Mermelstein said, "Now that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that these juveniles are entitled either to a new sentencing proceeding or entitled to a parole hearing, I think the Missouri Supreme Court is going to have to decide what, if anything, is the Missouri Supreme Court is going to give them."

What's next for Wolf?

As for Wolf, he has spent 16 years in prison and is now 30 years old. 

Wolf has filed various pleadings and will await his fate alongside 83 other Missouri inmates from around the state. 

At the last minute, Wolf and his lawyer Nancy McKerrow backed out of an interview with KOMU 8 News because of "new developments" in his case.

However, Wolf wrote KOMU 8 a four page letter outlining his views on life without parole sentences. 

Wolf wrote, "I do believe life without parole (LWOP) is too harsh for a juvenile. First, Miller consistently referred to juveniles as children. Sentencing a child to LWOP means you are sentencing a child to die in an adult maximum security prison with no hope of release regardless of the type of human being he matures into."

How has Wolf's family reacted? 

Wolf also discussed in the letter his family's support throughout his rehabilitation process.

In the letter Wolf wrote to KOMU 8, he mentioned his grandfather (Papa), Bill Lindley's, unwavering support. 

Wolf wrote, "I am not sure if you are aware of my grandfather's unconditional love and support of me. It was his wife that was killed when I was sixteen. Even though my crime was directly against him, he still chose to extend unconditional love, forgiveness, and support to me to such a degree that he hired private attorneys to fight for me. Papa wanted me to receive help instead of being punished with incarceration."

Lindley told Hebert in an over-the-phone interview he believes Wolf has made great progress and thinks he is ready to be released from prison. 

Lindley said, "I have forgiven Joshua."

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - The fourth annual CoMoGives Campaign has some lofty goals for the 2016 holiday season, hoping to raise more... More >>
25 minutes ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 2:19:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA — Columbia police grew furry faces during a No Shave November fundraiser to benefit a local children's home. ... More >>
45 minutes ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 1:59:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA — A single-car crash left one woman dead on Interstate 70 near Highway 40 and the Midway Travel Center... More >>
51 minutes ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 1:53:00 PM CST in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A fatal shooting on Interstate 55 in south St. Louis has forced closure of all southbound... More >>
1 hour ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 1:35:24 PM CST in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis-area businessman and three other men will have a hearing Tuesday in federal court... More >>
1 hour ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 1:24:17 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA — Columbia police officers arrested Edward Rosson Sunday night after he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend while holding a machete... More >>
1 hour ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 1:01:00 PM CST in News
CLAYTON (AP) — A Missouri man is jailed on $500,000 cash bond after being accused of telling co-workers he was... More >>
1 hour ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 12:58:25 PM CST in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri woman has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and involuntary manslaughter in a... More >>
2 hours ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 12:32:13 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA — We are fast-approaching the end of the holiday season and that time of year when some of us... More >>
2 hours ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 12:09:00 PM CST in News
WAYNESVILLE — Pulaski County Sheriff Ronald Long will advise detectives investigating a discovery of an adolescent's remains to close the... More >>
2 hours ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 11:47:16 AM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The November election put Republicans in full control of a record number of state legislatures around... More >>
3 hours ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 11:10:26 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA — The University of Missouri System will launch a nationwide search for a new chancellor of the system's flagship... More >>
3 hours ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 10:50:00 AM CST in News
FERGUSON (AP) — Residents of Ferguson are getting an update on reforms to the suburban St. Louis city's policing and... More >>
3 hours ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 10:44:38 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA — Several businesses around Columbia have been recognized by the state of Missouri as designated warming centers. Warming... More >>
7 hours ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 7:44:00 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA — A project to replace existing water lines in the Gregory Heights neighborhood is set to begin Monday. ... More >>
7 hours ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 7:31:00 AM CST in News
INDEPENDENCE (AP) — Police are investigating the killing of a 23-year-old man in Independence. The Kansas City Star reports... More >>
7 hours ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 7:25:06 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA — John Alspaugh and his family own the Hinkson Creek Farm, including its very popular Christmas tree patch of... More >>
13 hours ago December 05, 2016 Dec 5, 2016 Monday, December 05 2016 Monday, December 05, 2016 1:23:00 AM CST in News
STURGEON — Mid-Missouri drivers experienced trouble on the roads Sunday after a mix of snow and rain spurred multiple accidents... More >>
16 hours ago December 04, 2016 Dec 4, 2016 Sunday, December 04 2016 Sunday, December 04, 2016 10:13:00 PM CST in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 44°
3pm 46°
4pm 46°
5pm 45°
6pm 42°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

2:00p
The Dr. Oz Show
3:00p
Dr. Phil
4:00p
Jeopardy!
2:30p
Judge Alex
3:00p
The Robert Irvine Show
4:00p
Cops Reloaded

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
The Voice
9:01p
Timeless
7:00p
Supergirl
8:00p
Supergirl
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld