Murderer: Mahdi Hassan Ali
Victims: Osman Elmi, 28, Anwar Mohammed, 31, and Mohamed Warfa, 30
Crime location: Minneapolis
Crime date: January 6, 2010
Ali murdered Osman, a store employee, Osman’s cousin Mohammed, and Anwar, a customer, during a robbery of the Seward Market and Halal Meats in Minneapolis.
Appellant Mahdi Hassan Ali was charged with the shooting deaths of three men during a robbery of the Seward Market in Minneapolis on January 6, 2010. Ali, 855 N.W.2d at 240. The State alleged the following events occurred. When Mahdi entered the Seward Market, Osman Elmi, an employee of the store, and Mohamed Warfa, a relative of Elmi’s, were sitting behind the store’s counter. Id. Mahdi thrust a gun into Elmi’s face and pulled Warfa to the ground. Id. When Anwar Mohammed, a store customer, walked through the front door, Mahdi shot him two times, including once in the head. Id. at 240-41. Mahdi’s accomplice yelled in Somali, “Don’t Kill” or “No Killing!” Id. at 241. After shooting Mohammed, Mahdi ran out of the store. Id. Shortly after, Mahdi returned and shot Warfa at least twice. Id. As Warfa’s body fell, it held open the front door of the store. Id. Mahdi’s accomplice jumped over Warfa and ran out the door of the store. Id. Mahdi chased Elmi through the store. Id. A rack of snacks tipped over and spilled as the two men raced around a corner, before Mahdi shot Elmi three times in the back. Id. The store’s surveillance camera captured footage of the shootings. Id. Mahdi later told his cousin that he shot the three men because “they knew,” meaning they knew who he was. Id. at 243.
In September 2011, a jury found Mahdi guilty of three counts of first-degree felony murder while committing or attempting to commit aggravated robbery, one count of first-degree premeditated murder, and two counts of second-degree murder. Id. In October 2011, the district court sentenced him to two consecutive sentences of life with the possibility of release after 30 years for the felony murders of Mohammed and Warfa (Counts I and II), and a mandatory LWOR sentence for the first-degree premeditated murder of Elmi (Count III). Id. Mahdi filed a direct appeal, which we stayed to allow postconviction proceedings to proceed. Id. at 244. After the postconviction court denied Mahdi’s request for relief, we consolidated his direct and postconviction appeals. Id.
In the consolidated appeal, we agreed that the mandatory sentence of LWOR was unconstitutional under Miller, 567 U.S. at 465, but we rejected Mahdi’s argument that the district court’s discretionary imposition of two consecutive sentences of life imprisonment with the possibility of release after 30 years for Counts I and II violated Miller. Ali, 855 N.W.2d at 256-58. We also rejected Mahdi’s argument that the two consecutive sentences violated Article I, Section 5 of the Minnesota Constitution, which prohibits “cruel or unusual punishments.” Ali, 855 N.W.2d at 258. We explained that the two consecutive sentences were not “cruel” under Article I, Section 5, because the sentences were not “disproportionate considering the gravity of the offenses the jury found that he committed.” Ali, 855 N.W.2d at 259. We further explained that the two consecutive sentences were not “unusual” when compared to other offenders convicted of the same or similar offenses both inside and outside of Minnesota. Id. Ultimately, we affirmed the two consecutive sentences of life imprisonment with the possibility of release after 30 years (Counts I and II), but reversed the LWOR sentence (Count III) and remanded to the district court for resentencing on Count III, following a Miller hearing. Id. at 256, 258.
On remand, the State argued there was no need to hold a Miller hearing because the State had decided not to seek a LWOR sentence on Count III. Instead, the State “stipulated”3 that the district court could impose a third consecutive sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of release after 30 years. In explaining the State’s position at the resentencing hearing, the prosecutor said, “[G]iven that the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the consecutive imposition of essentially the three life terms, [Mahdi] will be over 100 years old before he is eligible for parole, and [the State] felt that judicial economy would be best served by foregoing a Miller hearing in this particular case.” The State also argued that the district court had previously received sufficient evidence about Mahdi’s past to decide whether a third consecutive sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of release after 30 years was appropriate.
Mahdi argued that despite the State’s decision not to seek a LWOR sentence, the Eighth Amendment still required a Miller hearing because the imposition of three consecutive sentences of life imprisonment with the possibility of release after 30 years on each sentence (i.e., 90 years total) was the “functional equivalent” of a LWOR sentence. He also argued that a Miller hearing could not be held in his case without violating the separation of powers doctrine because the Legislature has not provided a framework for Miller hearings. Ultimately, Mahdi asked the district court to impose three concurrent sentences of life imprisonment with the possibility of release after a total of 30 years.
The district court determined that Mahdi’s argument regarding the necessity of a Miller hearing was “moot” because the State had agreed to a third sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of release after 30 years to be served consecutively to the sentences on Counts I and II. The district court also concluded that the imposition of consecutive sentences, even if they could be considered the functional equivalent of a sentence of LWOR, was not the same as a mandatory LWOR sentence imposed for a single offense.
As for Mahdi’s motion for the imposition of concurrent sentences, the district court reasoned that it was bound by our previous decision in Ali, 855 N.W.2d at 235, which affirmed the two consecutive sentences of life imprisonment with the possibility of release after 30 years. The district court went on to state that “[e]ven if [it] had the discretion to impose concurrent sentences, it would not.” It reasoned that “[t]he criteria listed ․ at the original sentencing hearing [were] still valid,” and that “[t]his was still a brutal, inexcusable murder of three innocent members of the community.” According to the district court, “[a] plethora of information regarding Defendant’s youthful age, personal background, and unique circumstances was presented to [the district] court prior to and during trial. All of this information was carefully considered in sentencing Counts I and II.” On January 6, 2016, the district court imposed a third sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of release after 30 years, to be served consecutively with the sentences on the two other murder counts.
On January 25, 2016, the United States Supreme Court decided Montgomery, ___ U.S. at ___, 136 S. Ct. at 718. The Court clarified that Miller barred “life without parole ․ for all but the rarest of juvenile offenders, those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility.” Montgomery, ___ U.S. at ___, 136 S. Ct. at 734.
On April 5, 2016, Mahdi appealed from the district court’s January 6 sentencing order, asserting three arguments. First, he argues that the rule announced in Miller, and later clarified in Montgomery, should be extended to his case because his three consecutive sentences are, in the aggregate, the “functional equivalent” of LWOR. Second, he argues, for what he acknowledges is the first time on this appeal, that his consecutive sentences violate his right to equal protection under the Minnesota Constitution. Third, he argues that the district court abused its discretion in sentencing him to consecutive sentences because the resulting aggregate sentence unfairly “exaggerates the criminality” of his conduct. We consider each argument in turn.
Brandt Williams Minneapolis September 23, 2011
Mahdi Hassan Ali was found guilty of multiple counts of first degree murder today by a Hennepin County jury.
The jury found Ali guilty of killing three men during a failed robbery attempt at the Seward Market in Minneapolis last year.
The crime was the city’s first triple homicide since 1996, and shocked the Somali community.
The courtroom was packed, as it had been daily during the trial, with Somalis and other East African immigrants. Many of them are related to the slain men — a few related to the accused killer. As Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill read the first guilty verdict, one of the victims’ relatives silently and discretely pumped his right arm in celebration.
Ali faced two counts for each man he killed: one count of first degree, premeditated murder and one count of murder in the first degree while committing or attempting to commit aggravated robbery.
The jury found Ali guilty of first degree murder in four of the six charges. For the other two, they found Ali guilty of second degree murder – meaning that they didn’t find the killings of Anwar Mohammed and Mohamed Warfa to be premeditated.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Robert Streitz was unsurprised the jury split their verdicts the manner they did. Streitz said it can be difficult to prove premeditation in a killing.
“I can understand why the jury would view the evidence in the way they did. And we accept that. I am pleased though that at least with respect to Osman Elmi that they found his killing to be premeditated.”
Security video shows Ali chasing Elmi through the store. Ali shot Elmi in the back three times.
Abdi Mohammed Warfa, cousin to two of the victims in the Seward Market shootings, was present in the courtroom as the judge read the guilty verdicts.
“We do think the verdict was justice,” Warfa said.
Warfa said the families were a little disappointed the jury didn’t reach their verdicts on Thursday, but he understands the system had to run its course. Ultimately the verdict is just one part of the healing process, Warfa said. “The pain and the grief it lasts a lifetime. It’s not something you can overcome — because of this verdict it’s a lasting pain and grief,” Warfa said. “But we’ll keep them in our memory and we’ll make sure that we have fond memories and we’ll live with that.”
Mahdi Ali deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, Warfa said, but Ali will face more punishment in the next life.
“I’m a Muslim man, we believe in second life. So what is waiting for him the day of judgement is a lot more.”
However, some left the courtroom feeling that justice was not done. Mahdi Ali’s aunt, Ayan Abukar, helped raise him. She says she’s sorry for the family of the victims. Ali deserves another chance, But Abukar said, because he, like the other young man involved in the robbery, is a teenager.
“I feel the verdict was unfair because they are juvenile. Especially our son. He came with birthdate that’s not his own,” she said. “He come with other family. He didn’t come with his true name. He didn’t come with his own mom. Other family bring him into United States with fake name, with fake birthdate.”
Abukar refers to a controversy behind Mahdi Ali’s age and identity. Ali’s mother, Sainab Osman stood next to Abukar. In previous court testimony, Osman said that Ali’s real name is Khalid Arrasi. Osman said she was too sick to care for her son after he was born, so she gave him to distant relatives. But another couple brought her son to the U.S. and abandoned him in Minnesota. Osman said they changed his name to Mahdi Ali and gave him a new birthdate.
Abukar says Ali was 15 at the time of the robbery, not 17 as was on his driver’s license. Ali should have been tried in juvenile court, Abukar said. The family will file an appeal based on the age dispute.
“That’s why we’re feeling this is not fair. Not fair verdict,” Abukar said. “Even if he did, he’s a child so he has to go to the juvenile.”
In June, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Ali could stand trial as an adult.
Defense attorney Fred Goetz said he will seek a jury trial to settle the matter of Ali’s age. Goetz contends that it may be unconstitutional to sentence a person who was 15 at the time of their crime to life in prison without parole.
Ali is scheduled to be sentenced to life a month from now.
An 18-year-old will probably be in prison for life for killing three men in Minneapolis. By Abby Simons Star Tribune SEPTEMBER 23, 2011
Jamiila Ahmed’s life was transformed on the cold evening nearly two years ago when she stopped into Seward Market in south Minneapolis to pick up Somali coffee and witnessed one of the city’s most brutal triple slayings in recent memory.
As the mother of six walked out of the Hennepin County Government Center on Friday, moments after a jury deemed Mahdi Ali responsible for killing three men at the market, she was succinct about how things were again about to change.
“I’m glad he’s gone forever,” she said of Ali. “Now I can move on.”
Whether it was family members of the three men he gunned down, or Ali’s own devastated mother and aunt, all knew what is all but certain: The 18-year-old is not likely to see freedom again. After a two-week trial and seven hours of deliberation, a jury found Ali guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder for the Jan. 6, 2010, killings of Seward Market and Halal Meats employee Osman Elmi, 28; his cousin Mohamed Warfa, 30, and customer Anwar Mohammed, 31.
Ali showed little reaction as the verdicts were read, as did spectators in District Judge Peter Cahill’s courtroom, most of whom were members of the Twin Cities Somali community and knew Ali or the victims.
A first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic sentence of life without parole. Ali will be sentenced Oct. 25.
His attorney, Frederick Goetz, declined to discuss the verdict pending sentencing, but said he plans to file motions that challenge the constitutionality of sentencing a juvenile to life without parole. Ali’s birth date indicates he was 17 at the time of the killings.
Goetz has argued unsuccessfully, citing the lack of record-keeping in the Kenyan refugee camp where Ali was born, that he was only 15 at the time of the killings and should not have been automatically charged as an adult. That argument went all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled that Ali was at least 16 at the time of the killings.
Ali’s accomplice, Ahmed Ali, pleaded guilty shortly after the killings to three counts of attempted aggravated robbery and testified against Mahdi Ali. He will be sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorneys Robert Streitz and Charles Weber said they’re satisfied with the verdict, and lauded the strength of the men’s families during months of pre-trial hearings.
“It’s obviously not a happy day when you get a verdict like this and a young man’s not gonna be out for the rest of his life and that doesn’t bring back three people who lost their lives needlessly,” Weber said. “But we are happy that the jury took their time and considered everything carefully, and we are pleased with the result.”
Abdi Mohamed Warfa, a cousin of victims Mohamed Warfa and Osman Elmi, said the family initially was displeased with the prosecutors’ decision to cut a deal with Ahmed Ali, now 19, who they hold equally responsible for the deaths. They understood, they said, once it sealed a guilty verdict for Mahdi Ali.
“When anyone can walk into a grocery store and within a span of 60 seconds take away three lives, they have no respect for the sanctity of humanity,” Warfa said. “For that reason, we think the verdict was the right verdict.”
It won’t bring back any of the three men, but it’s about justice for their families, said Anwar Mohammed’s brother Fethi Mohammed. “We got what we want, and he got what he deserved,” he said. “But we feel sorry for his family, because they’ve been through what we’ve been through.”
Ali’s mother, Sainab Osman, and aunt, Ayan Abukar, quietly left the courtroom after the verdict was read. Abukar called the verdict unfair, saying her nephew should not have stood trial as an adult. No one knows what happened, she said, and family members came to the market that freezing night, mourning with the rest of the community, with no idea at the time that Mahdi would be deemed responsible.
“Those people who died were good boys, people who had good futures for their lives,” Osman said while Abukar interpreted. “We’re feeling bad for all the Somali people who died, but that young boy is a Somali boy who is going to prison for the rest of his life.”
‘Hell is waiting for him’
Key pieces of evidence included Ahmed Ali’s testimony that Mahdi Ali urged him to participate in a “mission” to rob Seward Market because the store’s money transfer business guaranteed thousands of dollars in cash on site. Surveillance video shown to the jury depicted two masked suspects bursting into the market, with Ahmed Ali corralling a customer and employee in the back while the armed suspect forced Elmi and Warfa to the ground. The gunman shot Mohammed as he came through the door and fled, then shot Warfa as he followed him to the door. He then ran back into the store, chased Elmi to the back and shot him. He paused over Mohamed and shot him once more in the head.
The suspect’s jeans depicted in the video matched a pair found in Mahdi Ali’s apartment with Warfa’s DNA on them, prosecutors said. Goetz contended that Mahdi Ali was the victim of misidentification and of a setup by Ahmed Ali, who lied to get himself a lighter sentence.
The jury convicted Ali of three counts of first-degree murder during an aggravated robbery for each man’s death, and one count of first-degree premeditated murder for Elmi’s death. He was also convicted of two counts of second-degree murder for Mohammed and Warfa’s deaths. With the second-degree murder convictions, the jury didn’t believe their killings were premeditated, which Streitz said he could accept because of the “fine line” between premeditation and intent. He said he will address Goetz’s motion protesting the sentence when it is filed.
Anwar Mohammed’s widow, Chaltu Nur, was still a newlywed and in Ethiopia when her husband called one January morning and excitedly told her he’d found them a place to rent so he could bring her to the United States. The next day she received a call with the news that he was dead.
“I lost part of my life. My life is nothing without my husband,” Nur said Friday, wiping her eyes with her scarf as Ahmed translated. “He’s gone forever, but I’m glad it’s over.”
Before he left the courthouse with friends and family, Abdi Mohamed Warfa said it’ll never be over for Mahdi Ali, whose justice will extend beyond this lifetime.
“Hell is waiting for him,” he said.
Mahdi Ali, then 16, killed three men during robbery of Minneapolis store. By David Chanen Star Tribune
The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld three consecutive life sentences for a man who was 16 when he killed three men during a robbery at a Minneapolis store in 2010.
Mahdi Hassan Ali argued that he deserved a future chance at parole because of his young age when the crime was committed. In Minnesota, 30 years of a life sentence must pass before an inmate is eligible for parole. Ali is serving three consecutive life sentences.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that such sentences for juveniles violated the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Ali is one of eight Minnesota killers who were teenagers when they committed the crimes that landed them in prison for life, and was the first in Minnesota to have his life sentence vacated.
Ali, who shot and killed three men at the Seward Market in Minneapolis, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in 2011 and was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of 30 years for two of the murders, and a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the third. When the state Supreme Court ruled the life sentence unconstitutional and sent the case back to district court, Judge Peter Cahill gave Ali three consecutive 30-year sentences, meaning the 23-year-old would be well over 100 years old by the time he is eligible for parole.
In its 20-page ruling, the justices wrote that the 2012 Supreme Court decision only addressed the imposition of a single life sentence, not multiple sentences such as in Ali’s case. The justices also said that their review of other juvenile offenders who killed multiple people indicated that Ali’s three consecutive sentences “do not unfairly exaggerate the criminality of his conduct.”
Justice Margaret Chutich wrote a dissenting opinion, which said children should be treated different then adults. She said the decision should be reversed and remanded back to district court to allow Ali to be eligible for parole after 30 years. He would be 47 at that time.
The U.S. Supreme Court determined that juveniles are prohibited from life sentences without parole unless the defendant belongs to the rarest of juvenile offenders, those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility, Chutich wrote.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Some Minnesota murderers will likely have their sentences thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that juveniles cannot be sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole.
The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that imposing a mandatory life sentence on juveniles violated the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
There are currently seven inmates in Minnesota prisons who were sentenced to life without parole for murders they committed while they were teens, ages ranging from 15-17.
One of the Minnesota cases that will be up for review is that Mahdi Hassan Ali, now 19, who was convicted of killing three people at a Minneapolis convenience store in January 2010, when he was 17.
On chilling surveillance video from the Seward Market, Ali can be seen shooting and killing three men. Ali was convicted and sentenced to a mandatory sentence of life without parole.
At the time, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill told Ali, “I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that you will be spending the rest of your life in prison.”
Fred Goetz, Ali’s defense attorney, argued at the trial that the mandatory life sentence was a cruel and unusual punishment. Now his argument has been vindicated by the highest court in the nation.
“I think the Supreme Court got it absolutely right,” he said. “You have to consider the individual circumstances of the case, the juvenile’s age, their environment, the nature of the crime.”
David Brown, a senior attorney for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, said the Supreme Court ruling will be difficult to stomach for victim’s families.
“They’re all thinking that these cases were complete, and now they have to go back through the trauma of potential sentencing hearings,” he said.
At the Seward Market Tuesday, men who said they were friends and relatives of Ali’s victims were not pleased by the Supreme Court ruling. They said Ali’s life sentence was fair. The men did not want to give their names.
Ali and other convicted murderers could now be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, which means they could get out after 30 years. But prosecutors stress no parole sentences can still happen.
“The Supreme Court didn’t eliminate the possibility of life without parole sentences,” Brown said. “What they said is that it cannot be automatic.”
For the names of the seven convicted Minnesota murderers who may be affected by the ruling, click here.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The mandatory sentence of life without parole for a man convicted of killing three people in a Minneapolis market when he was a teen was vacated Wednesday by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The case was sent back to Hennepin County for a hearing to see whether a sentence with parole would be more appropriate for Mahdi Hassan Ali, based on factors relating to his age at the time of the killings.
Prosecutors say Ali was 17 when he shot and killed three people on Jan. 6, 2010, at Seward Market and Halal Meat. He was charged as an adult and convicted in 2011 of multiple counts, including first-degree premeditated murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life without release.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles amount to cruel and unusual punishment, and are therefore unconstitutional. The court, however, didn’t rule out such sentences for teens altogether, only the mandatory aspect. A judge could still issue a no-parole sentence for a teenager, but must take into account “the mitigating qualities of youth,” such as a failure to understand the ramifications of their actions.
Ali was one of eight people in Minnesota serving mandatory terms of life without parole for murders they were convicted of committing when they were teens. The Minnesota Supreme Court previously ruled the federal decision regarding juvenile sentences is not retroactive, but since Ali’s case was on appeal when that decision came out, the justices found Wednesday that it applies in his case.
In Wednesday’s 62-page opinion, the majority found that the lower court should hold a hearing, then re-impose a life without parole sentence if it finds that the possibility of release isn’t warranted. If the court finds parole is warranted, it should impose a sentence of life with the possibility of release after 30 years.
The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, said the purpose of the hearing is to give the court the chance to consider mitigating circumstances, which the U.S. Supreme Court suggested might include a defendant’s age, immaturity, home environment or peer pressure.
“These factors, while not exclusive, establish a useful starting point,” Gildea said.
Justices Alan Page and David Stras dissented. While both agreed a mandatory life-without-parole sentence is unconstitutional with respect to juveniles, they disagreed with the majority’s reasoning, and said a sentence of life with the possibility of release should be imposed.
Even if Ali is given the chance for parole, it is unlikely he will be released in the near future, as he also was given two consecutive sentences of life with the possibility of release after 30 years.
Prosecutors say Ali killed 28-year-old market employee Osman Elmi; his 30-year-old cousin Mohamed Warfa; and 31-year-old customer, Anwar Mohammed, during a robbery attempt. An accomplice pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld three consecutive life sentences with the possibility of release for a man who was a teenager when prosecutors say he killed three people in a Minneapolis market in 2010.
Mahdi Hassan Ali originally received a mandatory sentence of life without parole, but his case is one of several in Minnesota that was re-examined after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional.
Because his sentences are consecutive, Ali won’t be eligible for parole until he serves 90 years.
Prosecutors said Ali was 17 when he killed three men during a robbery attempt at Seward Market and Halal Meat. He was convicted and sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole in one of the deaths, then given consecutive life sentences with the possibility of parole in the other two.
His sentence of life without parole was vacated in 2014 — after the U.S. Supreme Court found that life in prison without parole should only be applied to juveniles in the rarest of cases, and should not be mandatory. He was resentenced in 2016 to life with the possibility of parole, on top of his two existing consecutive life sentences.
Ali’s attorneys appealed, arguing that the lower court abused its discretion and the consecutive terms were the functional equivalent of a lifetime with no release. They argued the three life sentences should run together, so he’d be eligible for release after 30 years.
The Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed.
The majority found that the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on this issue don’t address offenders who received sentences with the possibility of release, and they don’t squarely address how consecutive sentences should be viewed.
The majority said that absent further guidance, the justices would not apply the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings to cases like Ali’s or other juvenile offenders who are sentenced on multiple crimes.
Justice Margaret Chutich disagreed with the majority, saying Ali’s sentences should be concurrent.
She wrote that the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court established certain principles, including that children are constitutionally different from adults in their level of culpability and that the most severe penalties can’t be imposed on juveniles as though they were adults.
Chutich said those principles should apply to a sentence like Ali’s, which she called the practical equivalent of a lifetime in prison.
Leslie Rosenberg, Ali’s attorney, said she believes the Minnesota Supreme Court will be proven wrong. She had no comment when asked if attorneys would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said that in Ali’s case, the evidence supported a first-degree premeditated murder charge, and the law has to recognize when three people are killed.
“We don’t disagree that juveniles have a different capacity to understand,” Freeman said, but “we think the Supreme Court has arrived at an appropriate level of care and scrutiny for these horrendous, horrible juvenile killings, and particularly multiple murders.”
Wednesday’s ruling could affect two other offenders who were convicted of killing multiple victims when they were juveniles.
Brian Lee Flowers, 25, and Stafon Thompson, 26, were 16 and 17 when they were accused of killing a mother and son in Minneapolis in 2008. Both were sentenced to mandatory life without parole.
Flowers was resentenced to two concurrent sentences of life with the possibility of parole, but Freeman’s office is appealing, arguing the sentences should be consecutive. The district court was waiting for a decision in Ali’s case before proceeding with Thompson’s re-sentencing.
“We think that given the nature of the crime, the fact that two people dead, to run (the sentences) consecutively is appropriate,” Freeman said.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Over the objections of one justice, the Minnesota Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the life sentences given to the killer of three people at the Seward Market and Halal Meat on East Franklin Ave., in Minneapolis in 2010.
Mahdi Hassan Ali was initially sentenced to life without parole, a sentence that was modified after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles.
The state Supreme Court had sent the case back for the resentencing after the Minnesota Legislature failed to adjust the law mandating life without parole for juveniles in particularly heinous crimes.
In the resentencing, however, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill structured the three sentences so that, although Ali, who was 16 at the time of the killings, would be eligible for parole after 30 years on each count, the sentences were to be served consecutively, effectively keeping Ali in prison for life.
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court refused to apply a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the subject to Ali, because his sentence involved three separate sentences and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional — “for all but the rarest of juvenile offenders, those whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility,” it said — involved only one sentence (See opinion).
The Minnesota court agreed with state prosecutors, who argued that each sentence has to be viewed separately under the 8th Amendment (barring cruel and unusual punishment), while Ali’s attorneys argued the total sentence is the “functional equivalent” of life without parole.
“… we simply hold that absent further guidance from the Court, we will not extend the Miller/Montgomery rule (requiring a hearing to consider a juvenile’s age before sentencing) to include Mahdi and other similarly situated juvenile offenders who are being sentenced for multiple crimes, especially when the Court has not held that the Miller/Montgomery rule applies to sentences other than life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and the issue of whether consecutive sentences should be viewed should be viewed separately when conducting a proportionality analysis under the Eighth Amendment remains an open question,” Justice Natalie Hudson wrote for the majority in an opinion that seems to invite review from the U.S. Supreme Court.
In her dissent, however, Justice Margaret Chutich said while the U.S. Supreme Court has not specifically ruled on cases where a juvenile is charged with multiple murders, it has “decided a line of cases establishing that children are ‘constitutionally different from adults in their level of culpability’ and are thus ‘less deserving of the most severe punishments.’”
Not extending the opportunity of parole until Ali is 90 constitutes the most severe punishment, she suggested.
“In affirming Mahdi’s aggregate minimum sentence of 90 years in prison, the majority allows juvenile offenders like Mahdi to be deprived of liberty for life without prior consideration of their youth, attendant characteristics, and prospects for reform to determine whether they belong to ‘the rarest of juvenile offenders . . . whose crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility,’” Chutich wrote.
Even if Ali’s three life sentences were to be served concurrently rather than consecutively, Chutich said, he might still never be released from prison.
To be sure, the United States Supreme Court has not expressly extended this substantive rule to juveniles who receive consecutive sentences that are the functional equivalent of life imprisonment without the possibility of release. But the foundational principle animating its Eighth Amendment decisions regarding juveniles is crystal clear: “imposition of a State’s most severe penalties on juvenile offenders cannot proceed as though they were not children.”
Hudson rejected Chutich’s assertion, however, writing that the U.S. Supreme Court answered “a separate and distinct Eighth Amendment question” than the one Ali’s three sentences presents.
No other justice joined Chutich in her dissent.
Killed in the botched robbery at the market were store employees Osman Jama Elmi, 28, of St. Paul, and Mohamed Abdi Warfa, 30, of Savage, Minn. A customer, Anwar Salah Mohammed, 31, of Brooklyn Park, Minn., was shot dead when he came in to buy a phone card. Ali chased him through the store and shot him three times in the back.