The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 25, 2013

Appeal of woman’s 1995 life sentence reset for hearing

By Wally Kennedy
news@joplinglobe.com

PINEVILLE, Mo. — A hearing in the appeal of Sheena Eastburn before the Missouri Supreme Court has been reset for Tuesday, April 30, after being removed from the court’s docket earlier this year.

Kent Gipson, attorney for Eastburn, said her hearing and a similar case on appeal from St. Louis will be heard at the same time.

Eastburn, a resident of Stella, was charged in 1992 with first-degree murder in her ex-husband’s death and was sentenced in 1995 to life in prison with no chance for parole. She was 17 at the time she was charged.

Her case and the St. Louis case are connected to a June 2012 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama. The 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 in Missouri and other states that permitted that sentencing to be unconstitutional.

After the decision, a spokeswoman for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said the attorney general’s office was taking the position that the court’s decision did not apply retroactively. The Eastburn case, according to Gipson, would address the issue of retroactivity.

The attorney general’s office, which filed a brief in support of its position on March 22, will represent the state before the court. The attorney general’s office, in its brief, said the court should refuse to hear the case because of procedural problems. A reply brief is due from Gipson in about two weeks.

Gipson said he will argue that Eastburn’s first-degree murder conviction should be vacated and that she should be found guilty of second-degree murder. Such a ruling could open the door for Eastburn, a prisoner at Chillicothe Correctional Center, to be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

The appeal to the high court was filed after Circuit Judge Tim Perigo in McDonald County denied a motion for a new trial that was based on claims of ineffective counsel during Eastburn’s 1995 trial.

Eastburn was accused of luring her ex-husband, Tim Eastburn, into the kitchen of his home near Rocky Comfort on Nov. 19, 1992, setting him up to be shot by Terry Banks and Matthew Myers. Myers was sentenced to 67 years in prison on a reduced charge of second-degree murder. Banks was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole.



Possible scenario

IF THE APPEAL before the Missouri Supreme Court goes forward and is upheld, the matter would revert to Circuit Judge Tim Perigo. He would decide whether a new trial is warranted or whether Sheena Eastburn’s conviction on the first-degree murder charge should be overturned because of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.