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A Supreme Court decision allows a second look for prisoners serving life sentences for crimes committed as minors.

Twin brothers convicted of murdering an elderly couple in Salem 27 years ago will have their case reconsidered after the Oregon Department of Justice withdrew a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case centers around Lydell and Laycelle White who were each sentenced to nearly 67 years in prison for the 1993 slaying. The two, who were 15 years old at the time, planned for over a week to steal the couple's car. They targeted the couple (who were in their 80s) and brutally beat them.

Since then, there has been a national shift in how the criminal justice system treats crimes committed by juveniles.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sentencing an adolescent to life in prison violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment unless a court determines that the juvenile offender is beyond rehabilitation and their crime reflects "irreparable corruption."

Following the ruling, lawyers for the Whites petitioned to have their case reviewed, arguing they had effectively been sentenced to life in prison. In May, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the judgment against the Whites and sent their case back to state circuit court for further consideration.

The Oregon Department of Justice responded by filing petitions asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hold the Whites' cases open while deciding an appeal from Virginia that would have further affected which juvenile offenders could see their sentences reconsidered.

But Virginia withdrew its appeal because the state enacted a new law allowing parole for juveniles sentenced to 20 years to life. In response, the Oregon Department of Justice dropped its petitions on Thursday.

"Since we are no longer waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court to give us guidance that might have conflicted with our state Supreme Court's ruling, it makes good sense to now defer to the unanimous ruling of Oregon's highest court," said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in a statement.

In a statement, the Oregon Justice Resource Center, a criminal justice reform group, applauded Rosenblum's decision.

"The science is clear: all young people can and do grow and change, and our justice system should reflect this," reads the statement. "Youth are not mentally or emotionally adult at the time of their crimes and they can be rehabilitated."

With the petition withdrawn, the White brothers are now clear to have a hearing and new sentence.

Jake Thomas is a reporter for the Salem Reporter, a news partner of Pamplin Media. Contact him at 503-575-1251 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or @jakethomas2009.


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