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La. inmate denied parole after challenging life without parole sentences for juveniles

By Ray Downs

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- A 71-year-old Louisiana man who successfully challenged life without parole sentences for juveniles at the U.S. Supreme Court was denied parole on Monday -- 54 years after he was imprisoned for killing a police officer.

Henry Montgomery was 17 when he shot and killed East Baton Rouge Paris Deputy Charles Hurt in 1963. He was originally sentenced to death, but that was overturned to life without in 1966 after the state Supreme Court ruled he didn't get a fair trial. Montgomery was retried, found guilty and sentenced to life with parole.

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In 2012, Montgomery's attorneys challenged that sentence, arguing it was cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a juvenile offender to life without parole. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed by ruling juvenile offenders "must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored."

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling was ruled to be retroactive in 2016 and Montgomery's sentence was changed to life with parole.

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But on Monday, the Louisiana Parole Board denied Montgomery parole by a 2-1 vote.

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According to The Advocate, the parole board members who voted against granting Montgomery parole said a major reason for their decision was that he hadn't taken enough classes during his 54 years in prison.

"In 54 years of incarceration, all you've taken were two classes," LPB member Kenneth Loftin told Montgomery. "You're only doing exactly what you can to get by."

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Another factor was that two daughters and one grandson, who is a police officer today, asked the parole board not to release Montgomery.

Hurt's daughter, Becky Wilson, said she forgave Montgomery but feels "justice has been done and he needs to stay in prison," WAFB-TV reported.

The Louisiana Center for Children's Rights said the LPB's decision was "incredibly disappointing."

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"Mr. Montgomery has shown every sign of rehabilitation in the 54 years he has spent in Angola," the advocacy group said. "He is exactly who the Supreme Court had in mind when they ruled that the vast majority of children serving life sentences should have a meaningful opportunity for release."

Montgomery will be up for parole again in two years.

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