Teen’s Conviction in Fatal Shooting Upheld by Michigan Court of Appeals, Back to Court for Resentencing

In March of 2010, then 14-year-old Dakotah Eliason allegedly shot his grandfather while he was asleep on the couch. Eliason was said to have emotional issues due to the loss of a family dog, his cousin’s death in a car accident, and the recent suicide of a close friend according to a news report at CBS News. He shot his grandfather, 69-year-old Jesse Miles, using Miles’ handgun. Eliason reportedly struggled with whether to shoot himself or his grandfather before firing the fatal shot. He was charged as an adult with first-degree murder, and found guilty by jurors in August 2010. Eliason was sentenced in Barrien County Court to life in prison without parole.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June of 2012 that sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional; in February of this year, U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara agreed, saying that the Supreme Court’s ruling would be applied retroactively. This essentially means that Eliason may be eligible for parole at some point, however the Michigan Court of Appeals did not agree.

On April 5, Eliason’s conviction was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals, however the court sent the case back to the trial court for resentencing. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling does not prevent individual judges from sentencing teens to life in prison without parole, however states cannot mandate this sentence for juvenile defenders.

Jonathon Sacks, Eliason’s defense attorney, plans to appeal the court of appeals ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court according to a new article at MyFoxChicago.com.

Michigan criminal appeal attorneys understand that while a young teen may commit a heinous crime, individuals who are this young deserve a second chance. In this situation, unless things change a now 16 or 17-year-old boy will face the rest of his life behind bars for making a terrible mistake, one that he no doubt regrets.


Individuals who have been wrongly convicted or feel that sentencing is overly harsh may have additional options. It is critical that you consult with a Michigan criminal appeals lawyer with experience in the appeals process, an appellate attorney who can navigate this complex area of the law. Winning is not easy; the attorney you choose can make all of the difference in the outcome.