ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) — A man in Michigan who was sentenced to life in prison without parole as a teenager nearly 50 years ago may soon be released.
At 17, Bobby Gene Griffin was handed Michigan’s then-automatic life without parole sentence for the 1967 murder of Minnie Peaples, 84, the Herald-Palladium reported. The law has since changed to say juveniles convicted of murder can’t receive mandatory life sentences.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the change is retroactive — meaning that anyone already in prison who was a juvenile when committing the murder is entitled to a resentencing hearing.
Griffin and three other people broke into Peaples’ home in Benton Harbor when he was 16 years old. Court records say Griffin beat Peaples to death and sexually assaulted her while the others searched her home for valuables.
Griffin, now 67, expressed remorse in court Monday and acknowledged that he can’t reverse his actions.
“I was a teenager, but that’s no excuse,” he said. “It was sheer stupidity. I’ve grown up now. I used my time wisely. I would like to express my deep apology to Mrs. Peaples’ relatives.”
Judge Scott Schofield resentenced Griffin to 40 to 60 years behind bars with credit for nearly 50 years. He’s immediately eligible for parole and is expected to be released.
“Mr. Griffin has demonstrated that not only is he capable of change, but he has changed,” said Sofia Nelson, Griffin’s defense attorney.
Prosecutor Michael Sepic said Peaples’ grandchildren have expressed disappointment in the decision.
“This was an especially heinous murder,” Sepic said. “It’s my opinion Mr. Griffin should never get out. But the law gives other factors we have to consider, and that’s what we were faced with here.”