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MN Life-Sentence Change Means Little for Inmate

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - A Minnesotan who killed three people when he was 17 faces life in prison even after a judge made him parole eligible Wednesday to comport with Supreme Court precedent.

Mahdi Hassan Ali, 23, is serving time for killing three men at the Seward Market in Minneapolis 2010 during a failed robbery. At the time of the robbery attempt, Ali was 17 years old.

Though Ali faced a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole, the Minnesota Supreme Court vacated that punishment in 2014 based on precedent the U.S. Supreme Court had struck two years earlier.

In Miller v. Alabama, the high court found that mandatory life sentences for juveniles amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Rather than foreclose the possibility of life sentences for minors, however, the court ruled narrowly that such sentences could not be imposed as a mandate.

State courts around the country have since struggled with whether to apply Miller retroactively.

Minnesota is one of six states that has decided not to offer such retroactive relief, according to an NPR report, but Montgomery v. Louisiana, a case now pending before the Supreme Court, could change that.

Hennepin County Judge Cahill's conversion of Ali's life-without-parole sentence on Wednesday is the first of its kind in Minnesota.

Though the change made Ali eligible for parole after 30 years, he still will not be eligible for parole until he is over 100 years old because he must serve each of the three 30-to-life sentences consecutively.

Prior to the high court's Miller ruling, the the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected arguments for changing the life sentences in two cases involving juvenile killers.

One case involved 17-year-old Timothy Patrick Chambers who stole a 1991 Lincoln Town Car in 1996 after filling out a job application at the Priordale Mall.

Chambers led police on a high-speed chase and ultimately slammed his car into a squad car and killed Deputy John Liebenstein.

In 2000, after spending the evening drinking beer, smoking marijuana and using cocaine with Andrew Rieman and Jolene Stuedemann, 17-year-old Tony Allen Roman Nose sexually assaulted Studemann and then stabbed her multiple times with a screwdriver.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections reports 10 inmates under the age of 18 as of July 1, 2015. NPR says Ali is one of eight who were convicted to life in prison without parole for crimes committed while they were juveniles.

"Most were sentenced long before the U.S. Supreme Court decision and aren't entitled to resentencing under a ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court," the article says.

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