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Northwest Arkansas judge orders release of man who killed as teen

by Ron Wood | October 25, 2016 at 3:41 p.m.
Dennis Wayne Lewis

FAYETTEVILLE — A judge in Washington County has ordered the release of a man who was sentenced as a teenager to life without parole for a murder committed in Springdale more than 40 years ago.

Dennis Wayne Lewis, 59, of Wichita, Kan., was convicted of capital murder and assault with intent to rob. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Lewis was 17 years and 5 months old when he killed Jared Jerome Cobb at Cobb’s Western Store and Pawn Shop during an armed robbery April 8, 1974.

Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay signed an order Tuesday ordering that Lewis' sentence remain vacated and that he be immediately discharged from the Arkansas Department of Correction.

Four years ago, in Miller v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down automatic life sentences with no chance of parole for teenage killers. But the court didn’t say if the ruling applied retroactively.

On Jan. 25 a divided U.S. Supreme Court said the earlier ruling that struck down automatic life terms with no chance of parole for teen murderers should be applied retroactively. The ruling means even inmates convicted years ago must be considered for parole or given a new sentence.

The motion seeking his release argued any sentence Lewis may be given today must be in accordance with the state statute that was in effect at the time the crime was committed. The 1973 law offered only life without parole or death. The law was changed in 1975, effective Jan. 1, 1976, to provide for a sentence of 10-40 years or life, but that law is not applicable because it was after the fact, according to the motion.


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