By Wally Kennedy
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —
The Missouri Supreme Court this morning heard testimony in connection with the appeal of Sheena Eastburn.
Arguments appealing her McDonald County conviction for first-degree murder in her ex-husband’s 1992 death and her sentencing in 1995 to life in prison with no chance for parole were presented by her attorney, Kent Gipson, of Kansas City.
In a June 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment forbids sentencing that mandates life in prison without the possibility for parole for juvenile homicide offenders. The court’s decision found statutes such as that in Missouri and other states that permitted that sentencing to be unconstitutional.
Eastburn, of McDonald County, was 17 when her ex-husband, Tim Eastburn, was shot with his own rifle by two men in her company the night of Nov. 19, 1992, at his rural residence near Rocky Comfort.
Eastburn’s attorney, Kent Gipson, had 21 minutes to make his case before the Missouri Supreme Court today that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling should be applied retroactively, and that Eastburn should be resentenced, perhaps to second-degree murder.
However, Shaun Mackelprang, an assistant state attorney, argued that the U.S. Supreme Court decision is not retroactive and that it would cause an undue burden on the state’s parole system if other juveniles convicted of first-degree murder have their sentences overturned and new hearings have to be scheduled.
Gipson said there are 84 others in the state like Eastburn who were convicted of first-degree murder as juveniles.