LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – A Pennsylvania appeals court has ordered the re-sentencing of an inmate who killed a sixth-grade math teacher during a 2014 burglary at her home.
Pennsylvania Superior Court on Monday ruled that Marcus Rutter should have received a maximum penalty of life in prison instead of the 70-year maximum term he received for first-degree murder.
Rutter was 16 years old when he and his cousin, Thomas Moore, broke into Nicole Mathewson’s home on North Franklin Street in Lancaster. Mathewson, a teacher at Brownstown Elementary School, was brutally beaten, stabbed, and strangled. Moore, who was 25 at the time, is serving a life sentence plus 20 years.
Rutter pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 35 to 70 years on the first-degree murder charge. Consecutive terms on burglary, robbery, and other charges brought the total to 54 to 109 years. He asked Superior Court for relief, claiming the penalty was cruel and unusual and essentially a life sentence with no chance of parole.
Superior Court disagreed with all of his arguments but ordered Lancaster County to resentence Rutter on all charges.
The court pointed out that while the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles are cruel and unusual punishment, the 2012 decision did not put a blanket prohibition on life sentences for juveniles.
The appeals court said the nation’s highest court also recognized that certain juvenile offenders “may exhibit such irretrievable depravity that rehabilitation is impossible, and life without parole is warranted.”