A young Michigan man serving a no-parole prison term for killing his grandfather at age 14 received a new sentence Friday that will make him eligible for release after 35 years.
It was an extraordinary break for Dakotah Eliason — and one that’s not available to hundreds of other Michigan prisoners convicted of committing murder when they were teens.
Berrien County Judge Scott Schofield believes Eliason, now 19, can be rehabilitated and sentenced him to 35 to 60 years in prison.
“You may never forgive me; I don’t expect you to,” Eliason told relatives of the victim, Jesse Miles. “But at some point in the future at least remember that there are some good memories of when I was young.”
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court said teens convicted of murder can’t automatically get no-parole sentences like adults. Judges now have more options and can explore a killer’s childhood and other factors.
Eliason got a new hearing because he hadn’t exhausted certain appeals when the court made its decision. The benefit, however, hasn’t been extended to other convicted killers serving no-parole sentences who have exhausted their appeals.
Some relatives were upset about Eliason’s opportunity for release around age 50.
“Where is the victim’s justice?” asked Miles’ son-in-law, Peter Hartz.
Eliason said he’s had therapy in prison as he wrestles with why he shot his grandfather five years ago.
“I’m trying to find an answer that makes sense to me,” he told the judge. “I want to show everyone that I don’t want to harm anybody. I want to show that I can be a productive member of society.” (AP)