Leon Echols was sentenced in 1989 by Judge Talbot in Michigan to a minimum of 75 years for killing a man during a quarrel over the purchase of a used car. The guidelines indicated a minimum of 10 to 25 years. After years of good behavior in prison, Echols is still not eligible for parole until he is 83. Before this conviction, Echols had only one prior conviction for cocaine possession. Echols was 18 years old in 1989.
Echols stated he rejected a plea offer because he honestly felt he used the gun in his self defense. The jury disagreed and convicted him of second-degree murder. Although the guidelines for his conviction was 10 to 25 years, Judge Talbot sentenced Mr. Echols to 75 to 150 years.
He has spent his entire adult life in prison. Because of his good behavior, Echols was eligible for jobs in prison such as cook, barber, but he picked prison photographer for prison visits.
“I can see children. I can feel normal,” Echols, 43, explained. “I love being able to see families interacting with each other. I’m not an inmate for that moment.”
The Michigan Supreme Court denied his personal appeal. The judges recognized the unusual facts and stated he had the option to request the Governor to reduce his sentence. However, Governor Rick Snyder has shortened the sentence of only four inmates and all four inmates had serious health issues. Justice Michael Cavanagh disagreed with the majority’s decision.The justice stated that Echols “deserved more from the state’s top court…This is an exceptional case in which defendant’s sentence is illegal,” wrote justice Cavanagh.
Justice Cavanagh noted that Echols at the time of his sentence was “only 18 years old and had one prior conviction for cocaine possession.” The justice added that, “Defendant’s youth at the time of the offense and his lack of a violent history do not support the trial court’s contention that he deserves abnormal punishment or that he poses a greater danger to society than others who have been convicted of second-degree murder.”
As many inmates do, Echols has a file about his prison life. Echol’s file is filled with certificates showing his achievements in prison including a play written by him. The play was performed twice in prison. Despite the setbacks, Echols has stated about his prison life, “I don’t want it to be the sum of my life, I see guys go home every Tuesday – I say one day it’s going to be me.”
Do you find this sentence fair?