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Sentences quashed for US murderer

A US court has upheld a teenager's convictions for murdering two British tourists in Florida - but has quashed his sentences.

Shawn Tyson was handed two life terms in jail for the pre-meditated shooting of 24-year-old James Kouzaris and his friend James Cooper, 25, in April 2012.

Mr Kouzaris, a town planner, from Northampton, and tennis coach Mr Cooper, from Hampton Lucy near Warwick, were killed after drunkenly straying into a rundown estate in Sarasota.

Tyson, convicted after trial on two counts of first degree murder at the end of last year, appealed his convictions and sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

Yesterday, a US court ruled that as Tyson was 16 at the time of the killings and therefore a juvenile, the sentences were a violation of the US Constitution's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment".

The case will now be re-sentenced.

In a judgment at the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland, Florida, Associate Senior Judge James Case said: "As the State concedes, we must reverse his sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole because Mr Tyson was sixteen years old when the crimes were committed."

Referring to a previous Supreme Court judgment on the issue, he added "a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment".

Judge Case concluded his judgment saying: "We must therefore reverse Mr Tyson's sentence and remand his case for a new sentencing hearing."

After Tyson's trial, the victims' families described the teenager - who sports a tattoo of the word "savage" on his chest - as "evil" and expressed anger at the fact he was released from juvenile detention a day before the killings.

Tyson had been arrested on April 7 for shooting at a car, but because of an administrative error was released on April 15 to the care of his mother.

Less than 24 hours later he had shot both men dead.


From Belfast Telegraph