Mississippi’s Supreme Court has ordered that a Greenwood man convicted in 1993 of capital murder be resentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
In a decision delivered Thursday, the justices unanimously agreed that it was unnecessary for a Leflore County Circuit Court judge to order a mental evaluation of David Blue because there was no other remaining sentencing option for the trial court to apply.
Blue was initially sentenced to death for the brutal 1992 slaying of Mary Turntine. Seventeen years old at the time, he beat the 34-year-old mother to death in an alley with a baseball bat. He also robbed and sexually assaulted her.
Blue later benefited, however, from two U.S. Supreme Court decisions — one that took him off death row and another that opened the possibility for his release from prison someday.
In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing intellectually disabled persons violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. With an IQ below 70, Blue fell within the parameters of being intellectually disabled. He was resentenced to life without parole in 2003.
Then in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court found that mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles also violated the Eighth Amendment. That ruling ultimately required the trial court to reexamine Blue’s case.
During this reexamination, Circuit Judge Richard Smith ordered a mental evaluation to help determine whether a jury could sentence Blue to life with or without the possibility of parole. Smith, according to Thursday’s 11-page ruling, was relying on a 1994 change to state law that added life without parole as a sentencing option in capital murder cases.
Writing for the state Supreme Court, Justice Leslie D. King said the 1994 amendment, however, could not be applied to Blue’s case because that would violate the constitutional prohibition against “ex post facto laws” — that is, laws that are retroactively applied to crimes that occurred prior to the statute’s enactment. “Applying a sentence of life without parole, a sentence not available for murder when Blue committed his crime, violates the prohibition against ex post facto laws,” King wrote.
Now 45, Blue is being held at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Lauderdale County. It could not be immediately determined when he might be eligible for parole.
• Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.