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Life Without Parole for Wisconsin Boy, 14

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on May 23, 2011 1:17 PM

Omer Ninham was only 14 when he was involved in the death of Zong Vang, 13, in Green Bay. His sentence - juvenile life without parole - has been severe.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that live without parole for juvenile offenders is not appropriate if they committed a crime that was not a homicide. Now, after an appeal, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has determined that juvenile life without parole is appropriate for juveniles who commit homicide.

Ninham and several other teenagers cornered Vang in 1998 when he was riding home on a bicycle from the grocery store. He was carrying a bag of tomatoes for his family, reports the AP. What happened next seemed like a senseless tragedy.

Ninham and another boy began to tease Vang and then they punched him. Vang tried to run away, and ran into a nearby hospital's parking structure. Ninham and the group cornered him on the top floor, reports the AP.

Ninham and another boy then grabbed Vang by his wrists and ankles, and dangled him over the side of the five-story parking ramp. The two boys swung him back-and-forth before they let him go, according to Reuters. Vang landed on the floor, hitting his head and torso, and died shortly after.

After a jury trial, Ninham, then 16, was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and child abuse in 2000. He was tried in the adult system through a juvenile waiver, according the AP. In Wisconsin, first-degree intentional homicide is statutorily required to be an adult court.

If tried in juvenile court, the records would have been sealed. Crimes that are tried in the adult system are public record. Juvenile court also offers additional protection, such as juveniles are "detained" rather than "arrested." In 1997, around 28 states have some sort of statutory exclusion like Wisconsin's, where some offenses are denied the protection of juvenile courts and are instead sent to the adult court.

Omer Ninham is facing a juvenile life without parole sentence. However, Ninham's attorneys have indicated that they will be filing another appeal to the Supreme Court.

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