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Markus Kaarma Convicted for 'Garage Hopper' Shooting

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 22, 2014 9:29 AM

Montana homeowner Markus Kaarma was convicted Wednesday of shooting and killing 17-year-old German exchange student Diren Dede, whom he caught in his garage.

The jury didn't buy that Kaarma had feared for his life when shooting the teen, as he had originally claimed, and found him guilty of deliberate homicide. ABC News reports that Kaarma is facing up to 100 years in prison, and sentencing is scheduled for February 11.

What does this deliberate homicide conviction mean for Kaarma?

Practically Life in Prison

Montana is one of several states which still allows the death penalty to be imposed for murder convictions. Luckily for Kaarma, it appears he isn't facing the death penalty or even life in prison, just anywhere from 10 to 100 years in prison. Montana law allows a judge to sentence a deliberate homicide convict to no less than 10 and no more than 100 years in prison, and the final determination may rest with the victim's family.

Dede's mother testified in court on Thursday that her son's death has psychologically destroyed their family. Often called "victim impact statements," these statements from friends and family members of victims can often influence the gravity or lenience of a sentence. Some even swing against punishing the defendant. The Associated Press reports that the judge will consider their comments when Kaarma is sentenced in February.

Isn't 100 Years the Same as Life in Prison?

Yes and no. If Kaarma is sentenced to 100 years in prison, that's known as a determinate sentence. The "25 to life" that many TV murderers receive is an example of an indeterminate sentence, one which has a range and gives the possibility of parole.

In some ways, receiving an indeterminate life sentence with the possibility of parole gives a convict more hope of seeing life outside prison walls than a 100-year determinate sentence. Of course, this requires a parole board to actually grant the inmate release (Charles Manson has been denied this numerous times).

Even if Kaarma is only sentenced to 10 years in prison, it may be at least a decade before freedom is an option.

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