A Missouri prisoner who was 16 when she killed a man during a meth transaction in western Missouri’s Cass County will remain in prison for now, under a key ruling Tuesday from the Missouri Supreme Court.
The inmate, 41-year-old Jessica Hicklin, was sentenced in April 1997 to mandatory life without parole. Hicklin is incarcerated at the maximum-security Potosi Correctional Center in southeast Missouri’s Mineral Point.
Prosecutors say Hicklin was 16 when Sean Smith was shot and killed.
Hicklin began challenging her sentence after the U.S. Supreme Court held in 2012 that juveniles cannot be given mandatory sentences of life without parole.
In Tuesday’s 20-page unanimous decision, the Missouri Supreme Court rejected Hicklin’s claim that the Missouri statute giving her parole eligibility after 25 years is unconstitutional.
In its ruling, the state court notes U.S. Supreme Court precedent gives states two options for fixing mandatory juvenile life-without-parole sentences for juveniles already sentenced: either resentence them or give them meaningful opportunity for release after considering certain circumstances, including their youth.
Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) spokeswoman Karen Pojmann tells Missourinet that Hicklin’s parole hearing is tentatively set for July 2021. The murder happened in 1995, and Hicklin entered state prison in April 1997 but received credit for time served in the county jail.
Hicklin also contended that the authority of Missouri’s Probation and Parole Board violates the state’s separation of powers. The Missouri Supreme Court rejected that.
Tuesday’s decision was written by Missouri Supreme Court Judge Laura Denvir Stith. You can read the full 20-page ruling here.
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