Life Sentence Overturned by Michigan Appeals Court for Man Convicted of Kidnapping and Murder at 17

Ihab Masalmani was 17 years old when he was convicted of kidnapping and killing Matt Landry in 2010. The crime took place during a 2009 crime spree; Masalmani was convicted of first-degree murder, carjacking, and four other charges. He maintained throughout that he did not commit murder.

It all began with a bank hold-up and ended with the victim, 21-year-old Matt Landry, being discovered in a burned-out house in Detroit where he had been shot to death. Landry was abducted in an Eastpointe sub shop parking lot; his kidnapping was a random act according to authorities. Masalmani’s defense attorney, Joseph Kosmala, argued that there was no evidence tying his client to the murder, but that Masalmani did admit to stealing a car and robbing the bank.

Masalmani did not act alone in the crime spree; another man, Robert Taylor, was also charged in the bank robbery and murder. Taylor was convicted and sentenced to life in prison as well.

Masalmani’s mandatory life in prison without parole term was recently overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals. In their decision, the appeals panel cited a decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court last June which called mandatory life-in-prison terms for juveniles unconstitutional, saying such sentencing is cruel and unusual punishment. Attorneys in Masalmani’s case had anticipated the ruling by the state Court of Appeals due to the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Miller vs. Alabama.

Ultimately, Masalmani may now be sentenced to a few years in prison, or life behind bars. The decision by the appeals court gives Judge Diane Druzinski of Macomb County Circuit Court the discretion to sentence Masalmani to the same prison term she did originally, or to any number of years she so chooses. Eric Smith, County Prosecutor, said he will seek the same sentence for Masalmani as he had before, and that there were many factors in the prosecution’s favor.

Michigan post-conviction attorneys understand that even though the appeals court overturned Masalmani’s sentence, there is no guarantee that he will not receive the same exact sentence again. When the appeals court overturns a mandatory sentence, it simply means that the decision is once again back in the hands of the judge/courts. Judge Druzinski may have compassion because of Masalmani’s young age at the time of the crime, or she may determine to keep him behind bars for life.

However, having the Michigan Court of Appeals overturn sentencing does give the defendant at least a fighting chance to pursue a better outcome. If you have been harshly sentenced or have been convicted of an offense you did not commit, it is critical that you choose a Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who is thoroughly familiar and experienced in the appeals process.

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