A young Michigan man serving a life sentence for killing his grandfather at age 14 will get a new sentence and a chance at freedom, a judge said Friday.
Dakotah Eliason, now 19, will be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum of 60 years, Berrien County Judge Scott Schofield said.
“He’s pleased to have the opportunity to show he’s growing up and should have a chance for parole,” attorney Jonathan Sacks told the South Bend Tribune.
There is no dispute that Eliason shot his grandfather, Jesse Miles, 69, in Buchanan in 2010. He was convicted of first-degree murder and given a mandatory life sentence with no opportunity for parole.
But the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently said teens convicted of first-degree murder must be treated differently than adults. Judges now have more options after they hold a hearing that explores a convicted killer’s childhood, education and other factors.
Schofield said there’s potential for Eliason to be rehabilitated. He would be eligible for parole after serving 25 years.
“The developmental disparity between an adolescent male’s feeling brain and thinking brain can help explain defendant’s horrific choice to kill his grandfather,” the judge wrote. “This imbalance … disappears once a young man moves into his mid-20s and his thinking brain catches up.”
Eliason’s behavior during five years in prison “shows an increasing ability to make well-considered decisions,” Schofield said.
Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic had argued for another no-parole sentence. Eliason will return to court on June 26.
“This is new territory and a matter of opinion,” Sepic said.