A Quad City mother has a vested interest in an upcoming ruling by the U.S Supreme Court on the issue of life without parole for teenaged killers.
“They found Vicky’s little body in a shallow grave, and we found out afterwards this 15-year old dug her grave three days before,” said Dora Larson of East Moline.
“He strangled and raped her and was found guilty of murder. The verdict came down on Vicky’s 11th birthday,” said Larson, who was living in Andover, Illinois in 1979, at the time of the slaying.
Scott Darnell, the then 15-year old convicted of the brutal crime, is now gray and 48 years old and serving life in prison without the possibility of parole in an Illinois prison.
But an anticipated Supreme Court ruling could change that.
Any day now, the High Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of sentencing teenaged murderers to life without parole, and no chance to redeem themselves at such a young age.
Larson has been at the forefront of victim’s rights lobbying for three decades. She says she is hoping the Supreme Court keeps the status quo when it comes to violent juvenile offenders like Scott Darnell.
“It’s like he came into my life, he took my child and he never leaves, we’ve been fighting for 30 years to keep him behind bars, and now this. It’s like living a nightmare all over again,” Larson said.
Attorney Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer with the Equal Justice Initiative, represented both teenaged defendants in the cases now before the Supreme Court. He says teens deserve more lenient treatment than adults because they are immature, impulsive, and capable of reform.
“They’re still kids and that capacity to change is enormous. And to ignore that capacity to change is to deny their child status and I think that’s cruel,” said Stevenson in a previous interview.
He argues the sentencing for teens is cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Larson disagrees, and says the penalty is needed at any age when a person is deemed dangerous and violent.
“Some of these killers, they are wired wrong. So they are not going to be rehabilitated. So many get out, they will do it again, and that’s what scares me so badly,” Larson said.
“I will fight to my death to keep him behind bars.”