Pa. high court to weigh if life without parole for felony murder is constitutional

Trib Live, 02/16/24: “The state Supreme Court on Friday said it will take up a Pittsburgh case challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for second-degree, or felony, murder.

It is the first time Pennsylvania’s highest court will consider the issue — looking at it through the lens of the Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.

The defendant in the case, Derek Lee, 36, was found guilty of second-degree murder Sept. 26, 2016, in the shooting death of Leonard Butler.

On Oct. 14, 2014, Lee and a co-defendant, Paul Durham, entered Butler’s home in the Elliot section of Pittsburgh carrying guns.

Butler’s girlfriend testified at trial that Lee ordered the couple to the basement and demanded money. Butler gave Lee his watch, and Lee went upstairs while Durham and Butler remained in the basement.

The girlfriend testified Butler attempted to lunge at Durham, and Durham shot him.

Lee was not in the room at the time.

Both men were convicted in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court of second-degree murder and given the mandatory penalty of life in prison without parole.”

Read the full article here.